Letter: Make affordable housing a national priority

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Apartment buildings under construction in Salt Lake City.

Heather Buchanan’s recent Public Forum letter “We need more housing assistance in the U.S., not less” is correct.

Utah has an affordable housing crisis for a very simple reason: There are more households than available housing units. And those units are costing more and more to rent and buy, making them unaffordable to an ever-increasing number of Utahns.

Because of the way incentives currently align, more than 125,000 Utah households spend 50 percent of their income on rent, leaving little remaining for food, vehicles or children. This is simply untenable where one unexpected expense will send one of these families into a tailspin and potentially homelessness. We can and should change incentives so that more affordable units will be available.

First, at the local level, states can encourage smarter zoning and make a smarter tax policy that makes affordable housing part of the housing market. The Legislature actually passed a good bill on this, but stripped out all funding, while the budget and tax reform debate spills over into a special session.

Second, on a national level, affordable housing programs should be expanded, not curtailed. Landlords should be federally barred from rejecting housing vouchers, and the federal government should create tax incentives to help fill the gap between what developers would make at a market rate, to create more housing that low-income families can actually afford.

Join me in calling our elected officials to make affordable housing a priority.

David P. Billings, Salt Lake City

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