City touts progress in closing the affordable housing gap

In the shadow of the new residential development along 400 South is the adjacent and nearly completed First Step House Recovery Campus, a treatment facility dedicated to helping veterans and the homeless.

Mayor Becker and other local leaders used the First Step House as the background for a press event highlight the first yar progress of the City’s 5000 Doors Initiative.

According to the City, the 5000 Doors initiative was designed to address Salt Lake City’s lack of housing options affordable to low-wage workers and moderate income families, persons with disabilities and those on fixed incomes. The program is structured to achieve goals through promoting the development, preservation and support of 5,000 affordable housing units over five years

The City reports that since the Initiative’s official launched in January, nearly 800 affordable units have been completed, with another 1300 units in the development process.

“Salt Lake City is seeing tremendous residential growth in our city, but housing for those that are low or extremely low income in lagging behind.” said Michael Akerlow, director of Housing and Neighborhood Development (HAND).

According to the City, the growth of a rental-driven market is  impacting working families and making access to safe, affordable living increasingly challenging.  Between 2000 and 2013, rental rates increased by 33 percent, while renter incomes only increased by 21 percent. In addition, over a third of Salt Lake City homeowners with a mortgage are burdened by having to spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing.

A key component of 5000 Doors Initiative will be to produce more low income housing in higher income neighborhoods.  According to Akerlow, young children from low income families that move to high opportunity, or wealthier neighborhoods, will have incomes 30 percent higher than those children that remain in low opportunity areas.

In Salt Lake that includes encouraging more new development to reserve a percentage of units for low income residents.  The City is currently seeking Request for Proposals from developers to build a mixed-income project at the site of the former public safety building at the corner of 300 East and 200 South.

“A true mix of income makes a strong community,” said Akerlow.

The First Step House Recovery Campus will focus on serving the needs of homeless and veterans needed treatment.   The recovery campus will provide 50 beds, 32 of which will be treatment beds.  The campus will provide 18 transitional housing beds built in a dormitory style with each resident having their own room while sharing a bathroom and kitchen.

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.