Midvale • On paper, the public housing project officially renamed Thursday as East 72 will cost $25 million and construct 89 modernized dwellings in Midvale for some of the most deeply affordable homes in Salt Lake County.
But razing and replacing the 12 run-down duplexes formerly known as Sunset Gardens at 380 E. 7200 South with a new three-story apartment complex also mean something more profound: a fresh sense of safety and stability for the 89 families whose members may be low-income, elderly, disabled or enduring homelessness.
Officials with the county’s housing authority, known as Housing Connect, broke ground on East 72 under a beautiful fall sky Thursday in what will add 65 units to a housing market all but crying out for more affordable places to live.
It is part of a multiyear process of revitalizing portions of the county housing authority’s portfolio of more than 1,000 units after years of delayed maintenance.
The rental housing will go to those making half or less of the region’s prevailing wages, including some families with zero income. Five apartments each will be set aside for residents with disabilities, the unsheltered and those escaping domestic violence. Ten units will be fully accessible for those with physical disabilities.
Midvale mayor says his city is ‘doing the right thing’
No doubt East 72 will help residents of Midvale, first-term Mayor Marcus Stevenson said, noting his suburban city has poverty levels nearly twice as high as they are countywide.
But Midvale’s moral and financial backing of the housing project is also a matter of “doing the right thing,” the mayor said, for the community at large.
“Unfortunately,” Stevenson said, “in my time as mayor, I often talk with other cities and there’s often things said about how either a community has done everything that they can, or that their residents really may not care to do anything at all to help those who are in need.
“Our city is incredibly supportive of this project,” he said, “and we’re so excited to have it here.”
Janice Kimball, CEO for Housing Connect, noted in a written statement that public housing across the country has been underfunded for years, leaving a multibillion-dollar backlog in building repairs.
Under a Rental Assistance Demonstration program, called RAD, and run since 2012 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Housing Connect and groups like it are able to access capital funds for upgrades by steadily converting the properties they manage to longer-term, voucher-based contracts with HUD, under what is known as Section 8.
Through the same program, Housing Connect announced in July a $76 million overhaul of two other public housing buildings, County High Rise and New City Plaza located near 1960 South 200 East, just east of the Salt Lake County Government Center.
Public housing isn’t easy to build
East 72 is also an example of just how difficult and complicated funding and executing new subsidized housing projects are these days — in Utah and nationwide.
The development’s financing is drawn from a number of sources, including federal low-income tax credits; financing from Zions Bank and a consortium of lenders known as the Rocky Mountain Community Reinvestment Corp.; the state’s Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund; as well as Midvale and Salt Lake County.
David Damschen, president and CEO of the nonprofit Utah Housing Corp., which helps finance affordable housing, said that, in today’s regional construction surge, “projects like this often get gobbled up by developers coming in.”
Of the thousands of new dwellings now being built across the Wasatch Front, Damschen said, “most of that’s market rate and increasingly out of reach for so many.”
“I’m so inspired,” he told an audience gathered just off 7200 South for the East 72 groundbreaking, “by people that are committed to this mission to provide security and stability and safety for our neighbors and their families.
“Projects like this,” Damschen said, “are so very, very important.”