City looking at its unused land for more affordable housing

Salt Lake City officials have explored several different means to increase the city’s affordable housing stock including redistributing $21 million to fund affordable housing projects, potentially expanding the boundaries that allow Accessory Dwelling Units and encouraging more missing middle housing in lower-density residential neighborhoods.  But during April 3rd’s City Council work session, officials explored a fourth option, using city land to create more affordable housing.

“Our assets as a city lie in our land,” said Councilmember Andrew Johnston. “I’ve very interested in pursuing an analysis of that (surplus land) and figuring out ways that we can harness that more effectively.”

Staff from the city’s Housing and Neighborhood Development estimate that the city potentially has as many as 128 properties on 67 acres of surplus land that could accommodate up to 1,240 residential units.  HAND staff, under the direction of the Mayor’s office, requested several language changes to City’s Surplus Real Property code that will help the city move implement goals in the recently-adopted Growing SLC Housing Plan.

Among the proposed changes to the code include outlying a clear framework for utilizing city-owned properties to incentivize affordable housing development, aligning surplus land policies with current housing needs, creating and maintaining a property inventory and allowing a portion of funds from the sale of city-owned properties to go to the Salt Lake City Housing Trust Fund.

Salt Lake City has sold 25 properties in the past four years, generating over $2.7 million in revenue.  Officials estimate that if 20 percent of that revenue was required to go to the Housing Trust Fund, the city would have an additional $555,000 to spend on affordable housing projects.

HAND staff noted that the current surplus inventory list isn’t finalized and city councilmembers expressed frustration that a list of potential surplus properties wasn’t made available to them.

Councilmember Kitchen expressed a desire to see the city retain ownership of some surplus

“This community is growing incredibly fast and real estate prices are only going to continue to rise,”  said Kitchen.  “Once you sell a piece of property the likelihood of you getting it back is nein.”

In a straw poll, the council voted to require city officials evaluate potential and current surplus properties at a minimum of every three years.  HAND and council staff will return to council at later date with an updated list of surplus property that could be leveraged for affordable housing.

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.