City Council finalizes plans to spend $17 million on housing

In one of its final actions with outgoing council members Stan Penfold and Lisa Adams, the Salt Lake City Council decided how to best spend $17.6 million set aside to address the city’s affordable housing crisis.

On Tuesday, the council acting as the board of directors for the city’s redevelopment agency (RDA), approved a budget amendment that will redistribute money to fund two new programs created to incentivize the development of affordable units and fund the redevelopment of several city-owned properties.

“I am thrilled we are moving forward on funding innovative initiatives to address the affordable housing crisis in Salt Lake City,” said Mayor Jackie Biskupski.

The council allocated $10 million to the RDA for a competitive fund available to developers and community groups interested in building affordable housing projects.  In allocating the $10 million, council members stipulated that $4.5 million must be dedicated to projects in high areas of opportunity.

Additionally, the council directed $3 million to go to the city’s Housing Trust Fund, administered by the Housing and Neighborhood Development Division (HAND), to be used for general purposes and a Renovation Pilot Program, to incentivize owners to improve existing affordable housing options.

The proposal also sets aside funding for the Barnes Bank Exchange project and the Capitol Motel, which the council opted to purchase in October.

The budget amendment also calls for the administration to return to the council with a proposal to incentivize affordable housing in neighborhoods of high opportunity that could be tied to the proposed inclusionary zoning policy that the council will explore next year.

The council was divided on whether or not allocate funds to redevelop the Sugarmont Plaza property, the site of the former Deseret Industries (DI) in Sugar House.  The plaza is owned by the RDA and is directly adjacent a to a fire station.  RDA staff noted that the properties could merge and be marketed together next year as both parcels will be vacant by this time next year.  The former DI building is leased until the end of 2018 by the Bicycle Center.  The fire station will be vacated over the summer when the new station opens on 900 East.

The council voted 4-2 to move a proposed $2 million set aside for the Sugarmont Plaza to go the RDA competitive fund.  Council members that voted in favor of moving the funds expressed confidence in the plaza being redeveloped with some affordable housing component.  Council members Lisa Adams and Stan Penfold were the two dissenting votes.

“I would love to see something happen in Sugar House,” said Adams.

Council member Stan Penfold emphasized his desire to see the plaza include a significant affordable housing component as it sits directly south of the proposed extension of the S-Line streetcar.  RDA staff noted that when marketing the property, the city could incentivize a developer to help build the extension.  “It’s worth having that conversation around that project because otherwise, you end up with a pretty significant missed opportunity to provide one of the additional services critical to affordability,” he said.

Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at isaac@buildingsaltlake.com.