Emphasizing the immediate need for affordable housing funding,
Mayor Biskupski issues her first vetoes of her term to preserve critical City programs
Today, Mayor Jackie Biskupski issued several line item vetoes of the Salt Lake City and Redevelopment Agency (RDA) budgets for fiscal year 2020. Mayor Biskupski presented her recommended budget on May 7th and the Salt Lake City Council adopted the budgets on June 11th.
Mayor Biskupski’s vetoes were focused on City Council changes regarding funding for affordable housing programs. In a Veto Statement sent to the City Council, the mayor emphasized that both the Council and Administration were committed to the goals of increasing affordable housing and expressed concerns that the changes would slow down critical funding for housing and homelessness programs.
“It is important to note, that while we may disagree on how we should move forward over the next year to address the housing crisis, we do not disagree that we must,” the mayor wrote. “The residents of this City have been clear that they consider this to be a top funding priority, and through our work on Funding Our Future and other endeavors, we have heeded their call.”
Specifically, the mayor objected to Council changes which reallocated $2.59-million dollars of funding from the City’s Housing Trust Fund to the Redevelopment Agency and placing contingencies on $1.9-million dollars of funding earmarked for affordable housing programs.
In discussing the Housing Trust Fund transfer, the mayor noted that over the last three years, $11,038,250 of funding from the Housing Trust Fund has been used to build or preserve 1,295 units of affordable housing in Salt Lake City. The mayor described the Housing Trust Fund model as “transparent and effective,” highlighting that every loan issued is first reviewed by the resident-based Housing Trust Fund Advisory Board and then approved by the City Council.
While the RDA also has an affordable housing portfolio, the mayor indicated that one of her concerns was a potential slow-down in allocating funding while a new process is determined, as well as a lack of public input on this decision.
“Shifting the funding to the RDA through an as of yet defined process will inevitably slow down the delivery of this critical financing,” she wrote, “With the region poised to begin implementing a new service model for homelessness, now is not the time to create any delays in bringing additional affordable housing online.”
In requesting the Council uphold her veto, Mayor Biskupski said she would like to see the Council and Administration come together to discuss this “significant shift in City policy” and to get feedback from those impacted.
During the budget process the City Council also placed $1.9-million dollars of affordable housing funding into “holding accounts,” indicating they would only sanction the funding to be spent until a governing ordinance can be passed.
The vast majority of this funding was allocated to support existing pilot programs implemented by organizations like The Road Home, Volunteers of America, Utah Community Action, and others. This year the City helped expand these pilot programs, which are primarily designed to help prevent homelessness amongst vulnerable populations like children, those living with mental illness, and individuals experiencing housing instability who do not qualify for other programs.
Mayor Biskupski emphasized the immediate need for this funding, highlighting The Road Home’s New House 20 program which the City has been supporting since 2015. The program provides case-management and housing assistance to the highest users of emergency services.
“The Council’s decision to place funding in a holding account will jeopardize case management services because funding for this long-term program lapses June 30th,” the mayor wrote.
In asking for the Council to uphold her veto and return immediate funding to these programs, the mayor described the partner organizations as “reputable” and expressed concern that the Council proposal creates a two-tiered system for how the City provides assistance for housing and homelessness programs.
The Salt Lake City Council has already publicly noticed several upcoming dates for them to discuss and vote on Mayor Biskupski’s vetoes. A super majority (5 of 7) of Council Members are required to override a mayoral veto. If the veto is not overridden the funding will revert back the mayor’s recommended budget. These are the first vetoes Mayor Biskupski has issued during her term in office.
Read Mayor Biskuspski’s full Veto Statement here: http://bit.ly/FY20veto