Salt Lake City leaders are ready to spend $17.6 million on affordable housing

It may have a quick impact; $10 million available for competitive proposals<br>

After a year of discussion and debate, Salt Lake City officials on Tuesday approved a breakthrough $17.6 million plan to support and subsidize affordable housing construction, including $10 million available almost immediately for any project that meets the city’s housing goals.

Officials said the set-aside could lead to the development of more than 700 affordable homes for people and families who earn below the area’s median income. The plan was approved unanimously Tuesday by the city’s Redevelopment Agency; City Council members serve as the RDA board.

“This is a very big deal,” said Council member Lisa Adams, who chairs the RDA board. “We’ve worked to come up with a proposal that crafts the best things that have been proposed to us. I think we’re going to see an immediate effect and it’s a road map for the future as far as affordable housing in Salt Lake.”

Adams and Councilmember Derek Kitchen, the RDA vice-chairman, crafted the plan, drawing on elements of two proposals put forward in recent months.

Mayor Jackie Biskupski, praising the action, said it showed consensus between the City Council and the administration on addressing the city’s housing affordability and persistent homelessness.

“This is the product of almost a year of hard work, dialogue and collaboration to fund a workable solution,” the mayor said in a statement. “When we focus on the face of this crisis, including those moving from homelessness and those just struggling to get by in our city, we are able to achieve great things.”

The city’s long-term housing plan has an overall goal of creating approximately 1,000 affordable housing units scattered throughout the city, including in so-called “high opportunity” neighborhoods — areas with higher quality-of-life measures on schools, housing, jobs and income.

Elements of the adopted proposal:

  • $10 million set aside to support competitively selected projects. The selection process will be administered by the RDA and the funds include $4.5 million for projects in the high-opportunity areas.

  • $3 million to the Housing Trust Fund for general use and to fund a new renovation program to improve existing affordable housing.

  • $1.4 million in “gap” financing for The Exchange/Barnes Bank development, which envisions 196 affordable units out of 412 total.

  • $3.2 million conditionally set aside to redevelop the Capitol Motel site at 1749 S. State St., which anticipates 60 affordable units out of 150 total. Final approval of those funds is expected next week.

The proposal also instructs RDA staff to draft policies on zoning and budgeting to support affordable housing and require an annual report on number and type of affordable units created.

“We have given structure to money, a significant amount of resources for housing, and we will look for the administration to carry out that structure,” Kitchen said.

Adams said: “We’re giving them the ability to run with it and we’re looking to see them do that.”