In the past 20 years as a receptionist, Pat Slabaugh has seen her wages stay about the same, while the costs of housing grew year after year. Pat, age 65, used to be a homeowner in Tooele but when she couldn’t work for three months after a surgery, she had to make the difficult decision to sell her home and look for an affordable alternative. Similarly, Connor Prescott and Hannah Petersen, a young couple in their 20s wanted to be close to the University of Utah for school. But even though they are working three part-time jobs, Connor and Hannah were priced out of the City. Thankfully, Pat, Connor and Hannah are now the recipients of income-restricted, affordable units at the new Liberty Blvd. Apartments built by Cowboy Partners, located at 400 South and 700 East.
At a press conference at the Liberty Blvd. Apartments on Tuesday, August 21, 2018, Mayor Biskupski affirmed the accomplishments and activities of “Growing SLC,” the City’s five-year housing plan. Growing SLC is a roadmap for the City to address the root causes of affordability, create long-term solutions for increasing the housing supply, and expand housing opportunities throughout the City. The Mayor credited that the plan is already paying off and “laying the groundwork for a more affordable future, “ but also stressed the need for more units to come online faster to meet the City’s current deficit of 7,500 affordable units. “Our goal as a City is to become invested in the development of housing, so that we can ensure affordability is included in as many projects as possible”.
To further spur more construction of affordable housing, the Mayor unveiled two new initiatives. One, an expanded fee waiver program for developers seeking to build mixed-income residential projects if they set aside at least 20% of their units for moderate-income tenants. The second, a strengthened policy aimed at preserving existing residential units by requiring that dwellings be replaced, or in lieu fees when they are converted to other uses.
Salt Lake City is experiencing a systemic housing crisis that has implications for every resident and business. At the press conference, HAND Director, Melissa Jensen emphasized that resolving the crisis will require “not just one solution, but a myriad.” To this end, HAND is exploring multiple ways how the City can encourage developers to build and preserve affordable housing.
Developers like Dan Lofgren of Cowboy Partners are key to resolving the affordable housing shortage, but Lofgren recognizes that developers can’t do it alone; “Affordable housing requires resources, and what the Mayor is announcing puts more resources into the mix.” Lofgren also credited the Mayor for helping create a “culture of affordable housing.”
Mayor Biskupski asserted that, “it’s important to remember that every additional unit of affordable housing is life changing” – life-changing for individuals like Pat, Connor and Hannah, who now have the opportunity to thrive within their budget and to be part of the Salt Lake City community.