Letter: Salt Lake’s Central City neighborhood lacks homeownership opportunities. Ivory Innovations could step in and change that.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) A news conference for an affordable housing initiative, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. The the event was held at the old Liberty Wells Center in Salt Lake City, which was donated as a site for over 60 affordable residences.

Ivory Innovations (an affiliate of Ivory Homes) is working to redevelop the Liberty Wells Center at 700 South and 400 East in the Central City Neighborhood into “Innovation Park” — a development that would build 66 affordable homes on a site donated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

At this time, 76% of the new homes are planned to be 1- and 2-bedroom rentals. There is no doubt that we need more housing in Salt Lake City, but what would make this project truly innovative is filling the gaps that other developers have left: family-sized and for-sale housing in Central City.

Each new Tribune article about Salt Lake City School District’s declining enrollment reminds us of the city’s lack of family-sized housing construction. Unsurprisingly, many of the schools being studied for closure are close to the city’s core where housing construction is happening – just not family-sized housing. Central City, in particular, lacks family-sized housing; only 9.5% of Central City housing units have 3 or more bedrooms, per 2020 U.S. Census data. That is less than a quarter of the city average – 43%.

Central City, like many of Salt Lake City’s urban neighborhoods, lacks homeownership opportunities. Only 12% of homes in Central City are owner occupied according to 2020 U.S. Census statistics, far less than the 45% city and 65% national average. Adding for-sale housing to this neighborhood would create neighborhood stability, community pride, and wealth-building opportunities with generational impact.

While we appreciate the adaptive reuse of the historic structure and realize the added complexity this brings, there is nothing else that makes this project innovative. Creating a stream of cash flow through low-income rentals built on donated church property for which past community members made personal sacrifices to acquire and build is not innovative. We encourage Ivory to consider this incredible opportunity it has to use its skill set as “Utah’s Number One Homebuilder” to develop dozens of family-sized, for-sale homes in this area that desperately needs it. That would be truly innovative.

Rhianna Riggs, chair of Central City Neighborhood Council, Salt Lake City

Submit a letter to the editor