Salt Lake City

Mayor's Office

Erin Mendenhall | (801) 535-7704 |

Mayor Biskupski honors housing advocates

Salt Lake City’s Housing and Neighborhood Development (HAND) Division hosted the first annual Fair Housing & Community Development Awards Breakfast on Tuesday April 23 at the Salt Lake Chamber. The event coincided with National Community Development Week (April 22-26) and April’s Housing Month.

The event was an opportunity to recognize both individuals and organizations that are investing in affordable housing solutions throughout Salt Lake City.

“Over the last three years, our City has fundamentally shifted how we think and how we act on housing,” Mayor Biskupski said to the crowd. “Today I stand here with confidence that this City is moving in the right direction.”

Michele Hutchins was named this year’s Fair Housing Leader.

Hutchins has worked in the Utah Housing & Urban Development office for 19 years and is the lead specialist for Equal Housing Opportunities. She is active in the community and spends time educating a variety of audiences about Fair Housing. 

The Disability Law Center was named this year’s Fair Housing Partner.

The Disability Law Center conducts fair housing tests to ensure landlords are following Utah housing laws. The DLC assists those living with disabilities, ensuring they are not being discriminated against or become victims of abuse and neglect. 

Rob Ferris was named this year’s Community Development Leader.

Ferris is the CEO of Advantage Services, a non-profit that seeks to enhance recovery and independence for people living with mental health challenges, by providing stable employment. Ferris also serves as the Chairman of the Homeless Housing Coordination Council, Chairman of the State Rehabilitation Council, Chairman of the Utah Statewide Independent Council, and a member of the Dignity of Work Taskforce.

Utah Community Action was named this year’s Community Development Partner.

Utah Community Action’s mission is to empower individuals, strengthen families, and build communities through self-sufficiency and education programs. The organization has five core values, including appreciation, compassion, integrity, respect, trust.

Mayor Biskupski also handed out two Keys to the City at the awards breakfast.

“Over the past three years, I have used the Key to the City to honor individuals who have used their voices, talents, or resources to improve the community in significant ways,” Biskupski said. “With housing stability being one of my priority areas, I thought it only appropriate to honor Claudia O’Grady and Shawn McMillen.”

O’Grady helped secure tax-credits for three City projects – including two that recently broke ground during Fair Housing Month. She has been involved in community development for over 20 years. 

“Without Claudia’s voice and activism in her role with Utah Housing Corporation, it’s likely these projects would not have been built,” Biskupski said. “When it comes to affordable and fair housing, we need more Claudia’s in the room.”

For the last fourteen years, McMillen has played a crucial role in addressing addiction, homelessness, and community stability across the state of Utah.

“Shawn sees the bigger picture,” Biskupski said. “He understands the critical intersection between housing, treatment, homelessness, and healthcare.”

McMillen has served as the Executive Director of First Step House since 2005. During his tenure, the organization’s capacity has grown by 75% and its transitional housing capacity has grown by 200%.

“Without question, Shawn has been instrumental in saving countless lives and bringing stability to many more.”

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