Hive Mind: How Many Of Those New Apartments Downtown Are Affordable? | KUER 90.1

Hive Mind: How Many Of Those New Apartments Downtown Are Affordable?

Feb 26, 2018

In our series Hive Mind, listeners ask questions about different topics and KUER reporters try to answer them. This week you asked … how many of those new apartment complexes in Salt Lake City are affordable?

All the new apartments in Salt Lake City have a lot to do with good employment numbers, population growth and low interest rates. City planners are also pushing for more housing along public transit lines. 

“A lot of what you see is affordable or has an affordable component to it,” says Claudia O’Grady. She’s with Utah Housing Corporation, which finances new projects that use low-income housing tax credits.

“But the fact is that this is still a good market for market-rate housing developers and they’re taking advantage of that,” she says.

Claudia O'Grady says the market is good for market-rate housing developments but rent is outpacing incomes.
Credit Utah Housing Corporation

O’Grady recently caught a glimpse of what some new units are going for downtown when a developer approached her to see if he could help with the affordable housing crunch.  

“So he had just finished a large development downtown. He called me and said why don’t you come down and see what I do. I’d love to show you. He had two bedroom-two bathroom units that were renting for $5,200. I didn’t even know how to respond to that,” she says. “I couldn’t even imagine who was living there.”

Market-rate projects are outpacing affordable ones by a good stretch. But O’Grady says UHC has many affordable projects in the pipeline. A new development downtown has about 300 units with one-bedroom apartments for qualifying renters that go for about $850 a month. Another new project just west of the state capital has 79 income-restricted units. And the new Granary Place Apartments in the Central 9th neighborhood has 134 units for residents who make up to about $34,000 a year. Salt Lake City officials are working to create 1,000 affordable units. But studies show the city needs far more.

O’Grady says making rent is no longer just a problem for the city’s poorest residents.    

“We need housing at 60 percent of area median income. We need housing at 80 percent area median. Those are not incomes that are high enough to rent a market-rate apartment downtown these days,” she says. “Those rents have never been higher.”

O’Grady says market-rate developers are actually clamoring to help with the problem. But money to subsidize those projects is limited.

The fair market rent on a one-bedroom unit went from $839 to $990 — An increase of 18 percent. For that same period, Utah’s household median income went from $61,587 to $65,977 — an increase of about 7 percent.
Credit Utah Housing Corporation