Salt Lake City


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Affordable Housing Overlay

Text Amendment


The City’s Planning Division is considering zoning amendments to encourage the construction of additional affordable housing. This may include an affordable housing overlay that would modify zoning requirements in some areas of the city. We want to hear your ideas about how we can encourage additional affordable housing in Salt Lake City.

Learn about the project

What is the project?

An affordable housing overlay zoning district would provide incentives to developers who include affordable homes in their projects. An overlay would encourage the production of affordable homes rather than require it. This may be done through zoning code modifications such as: allowing additional height, reduced parking requirements, or through process waivers.

Rather than imposing restrictions, an affordable housing overlay aims to present developers with more choices by offering additional benefits to projects that increase the supply of homes that more people can afford. Ideally, the incentives would reduce development costs to allow the construction of more affordable homes.

Why is housing getting more expensive?

There are many reasons why across the country housing is dramatically increasing in price. In many places, including Salt Lake City, the population is growing faster than homes are being constructed to accommodate them. Salt Lake City’s population decreased from 189,500 in 1960 to 159,936 in 1990.  By 2017, the city’s population grew to more than 200,000 people – however, it has only 15,000 housing units more than it did in 1990. 

Today homes are more expensive because land, material, and labor costs have also increased. Additionally, Salt Lake City has limited land still available for development, which further increases costs.

-Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute

Why make these changes?

Affordable housing was ranked as a top priority in the 2019 Salt Lake City Resident Survey.

The city adopted Growing SLC: A Five-Year Housing in 2017 and has a number of efforts underway to assist with providing quality housing for its residents. The Planning Division’s current efforts include zoning changes for accessory dwelling units (ADUs), changes to the RMF-30 zone, and amendments related to single room occupancy (SRO) dwellings.

What is an overlay zoning district?

An overlay zone is a zoning district which is applied over one or more previously established zoning districts, establishing additional or stricter standards and criteria for included properties in addition to those of the underlying zoning district. Communities often use overlay zones to protect special features such as historic buildings, wetlands, steep slopes, and waterfronts.  

– American Planning Association

What is affordable housing?

A home is generally considered affordable if the household pays 30% or less of their gross income (before taxes are taken out) towards rent/mortgage payments. Households are considered cost burdened if they pay more than this amount.

HUD uses the following categories and AMI percentages to break incomes into segments so that specific housing needs can be met:

  • Median Family Income: 100%
  • Low Income: 80%
  • Moderately Low Income: 60%
  • Very Low Income: 50%
  • Extremely Low Income: 30%

In 2019, a single person household in Salt Lake County has an area median income of $57,938. The area median income for a family of four is $82,688. 

Growing SLC and HUD

View affordable housing handout.

Survey Results

We heard from over 2,100 people in December 2019 and January 2020 in our survey on an Affordable Housing Overlay. Review the responses by looking at the survey summary or a pdf document with the full responses to the questions.

Survey summary

Two-thirds of survey respondents own their homes and 1/3 rent. This is a higher percentage of owners than the city as a whole – 2018 American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census reported 48% of Salt Lake City residents owned their homes.

Do you rent or own your residence?

Many renters move frequently and expect to move in the next year or two. The two questions below are related to those that are renters:

How long have you lived at your current residence?

When do you anticipate moving to another residence?

Nearly 10% of respondents spend more than 50% of their income on housing. This is considered extremely cost-burdened. 31% spend between 31-50% of their income on rent and are considered cost-burdened. Over half, 59%, spend less than 30% on housing, which is considered affordable. Compared to the city as a whole, Growing SLC reported that nearly half of renters in Salt Lake City were cost-burdened and nearly a quarter were extremely cost-burdened. 

Despite this, 56% stated that housing in Salt Lake City was not affordable. 40% considered it somewhat affordable and 4% considered it very affordable.

86% of respondents felt that affordable housing benefited the community. Nearly 8% selected “I don’t know” and 6% did not feel that it benefited the community.

Respondents were open to a variety of housing types in neighborhoods. Respondents were able to select multiple housing types they thought most appropriate for affordable housing in their neighborhood and single family homes were selected most often followed by duplexes, and townhouses. 

What types of affordable housing do you think fits in your neighborhood?

80% of respondents stated that affordable housing should be in all neighborhoods. Nearly 83% of respondents felt there wasn’t enough affordable housing in Salt Lake City. Approximately two-thirds of respondents felt there wasn’t enough affordable housing in their neighborhood and 14% selected “I don’t know”. 20% of respondents thought their neighborhood had enough affordable housing.

When asked what areas had the biggest need for more affordable housing respondents were able to select multiple areas. Downtown was selected the greatest number of times followed by Sugar House, then Central Community.

What areas do you think have the biggest need for affordable housing?

Zoning regulations can affect the supply and location of affordable housing. Respondents thought that focusing affordable housing near transit routes, permitting greater residential density than is currently allowed, and zoning more land in Salt Lake City for multifamily housing would be the most effective ways of addressing the supply and location. 

What are the most and least effective ways to address supply and location of affordable housing?

Respondents generally thought that amenities like light rail, grocery stores, schools, and parks should be within ¼ mile of affordable housing. Doctor’s offices/hospitals and other retail were less important and could be located ½ mile or further away.

How close should these amenities be to affordable housing?

Survey respondents generally had higher incomes and more selected white as their ethnicity compared to the city as a whole. The household size and age of respondents were generally representative of the city as a whole.

View complete survey responses.

What’s next?

Based on public feedback, planning staff will prepare a preliminary draft of the updates to the zoning ordinance. The proposed updates will be posted on this page; dates and times planning staff will host open houses and other public meetings to review and discuss the proposal will also be posted here. 

The approval process will include public hearings at future Planning Commission and City Council meetings. The Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the City Council, who will make the final decision. 

Meeting dates will be determined at a later date and will be posted online.


If you have questions or comments regarding the proposal or you would like to be notified of future public meetings, please contact

Sara Javoronok

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