Report Highlights Salt Lake City Affordable Housing Crisis

Sep 7, 2016

Salt Lake City maintains a significant affordable housing shortage. While incomes have risen overall, they’re not keeping up with the cost of living.

Housing vacancies are at historic lows in Salt Lake City. Housing and Development Director Mike Akerlow says half of renters in the city spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing. That’s too much, he says. And it’s feeding a cycle of poverty.

“If we can get people into secure housing, provide them stability, it helps alleviate so many other burdens,” Akerlow says. “And we’re not doing that.”

Renters in Salt Lake City can expect to pay roughly $938 for a 2-bedroom apartment at fair market value.

Wage increases have led to a decrease in the affordable-housing gap over the past few years. But not by much, Akerlow says. He proposed both building more units and subsidizing rents.

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker launched the 5,000 Doors affordable housing initiative last year, but the city continues to lose lower-cost housing as developers demolish and renovate older units.   

Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall spoke about the effect the lack of low-cost housing has on the city’s efforts to find permanent housing for the homeless.

“Rapid rehousing, we look at it like a golden child in many ways that we’re getting families off the street fast,” Mendenhall says. “But we are flinging them to the wolves in many ways, where they don’t have jobs, they don’t necessarily have any security. They don’t know what kind of a lease they’re getting into.”

The administration’s report shows bout 1 percent of housing units in the city lack complete plumbing or kitchens and the number of people living in overcrowded housing has risen.