Eva López Chávez: Salt Lake City can’t ignore the housing crisis. Let’s tackle it together.

Difficult problems call for creative solutions

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Apartment tower in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 5, 2022.

A decade ago, I moved to our city of opportunity. I remember packing my car, arriving at my first apartment located at the Landing and preparing to ride the infamous TRAX for the first time. I was a young student at the University of Utah, embarking on my journey into public service. I’ll never forget that skyline with light reflecting from its towering glass panes.

Many renters like myself have chosen to make Salt Lake City our home. We have found community and started families — chosen and kin — because this city celebrates the diverse people that come to our oasis in the west. Renters today need to be acknowledged as pioneers in our city. I see an opportunity to use my experience as an advocate and public servant to represent people like me: neighbors who love our city and are worried about being displaced. That’s why I’m running to represent District 4.

As we face the looming housing crisis, let’s consider the fact that Salt Lake City is a renter city. Our district is made up of 83% renters. Each of them shape our community with their stories and experiences. We deserve to equally shape our city and ensure short-term and long-term development strives to protect our right to live in neighborhoods.

My experience as a public servant has given me the opportunity to work with many voices in our neighborhood. It also gave me an inside look at how Salt Lake City’s departments and divisions operate.

I worked for Salt Lake City during tumultuous times. When our neighborhoods desperately needed a response at City Hall, I stepped in to fill a void. My work led me to stepping up and speaking out for community spaces essential for our renters, such as Planned Parenthood’s Metro Health Center on 1000 E, when community members said city officials were non-responsive. I spoke with UDOT engineers when community members expressed frustration with a lack of city communication against the I-15 expansion. I also worked on the community-benefit agreements that will pave our relationship with an ongoing Olympic bid in our city.

I’m ready to tackle the looming crises we face together. The steps we take to face the realities of a growing city will be decided in this election. I am ready to advocate solutions for our Great Salt Lake, protect our neighborhoods and small businesses, celebrate our diverse communities and face our greatest challenge: development that threatens to displace us.

In plain language, Salt Lake City neighborhoods are becoming unaffordable. We need to protect affordable neighborhoods as much as we need growth as a tool to invest back into our communities. Renters put down roots as much as anyone else, the difference is we face housing insecurity when affordable spaces are replaced by market-rate apartments.

Salt Lake City wants to add 10,000 new housing units by 2027. We need to get ahead of the curve and advocate for affordable spaces. I imagine a city that binds our districts together through the heart of Downtown. A city that is prepared to connect our neighbors through our Folsom Trail, past the Rio Grande, into a thriving Main Street. A city allowing residents to connect into spaces like pocket parks and nooks in Central City and East Central. Growth is a community tool that should be wielded with vigor and granular neighborhood-knowledge.

Together, I know we can protect and preserve our neighborhoods as we step into the next phase of growth of Salt Lake City. We should not accept the unintended consequences of slow reactions. We should always maneuver our community response to bring light to issues that matter to our neighbors. Our neighborhoods need someone that was forged through tumultuous times and knows how to usher in the voices of residents. We need a proactive, resilient and responsive leader that knows how to wield growth as a tool to bring investment to our communities.

My dad taught me to roll up my sleeves and when in doubt, “Have the WD-40 ready.” That’s westerner talk for, “Difficult problems call for creative solutions.”

We need to be ready to face our housing, environmental and community problems with the same type of ingenuity as my old man.

This election cycle, I’m running to protect renters and families and bring my experience from City Hall directly to our neighborhoods. I look forward to earning your vote. But mostly, I’m excited to work together, as a community, and protect the places where we all got our start.

Eva López Chávez

Eva López Chávez is the eldest daughter in a Mexican immigrant working-class family. She is a community organizer and a decade-long renter of Salt Lake City. She served as a Mayor’s Office liaison, Chair of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party, is an avid fly-fisherwoman and is running for city council to represent Salt Lake City’s District 4.