Council debates location of proposed westside affordable housing project

Artist rendering of the north elevation of the proposed Cornell Street project. Image courtesy Salt Lake City planning documents.

During Tuesday’s City Council work session, a briefing on a $550,000 loan from Salt Lake City ‘s Housing Trust Fund to Little Diamond Housing, LLC quickly evolved into a larger conversation about where and how affordable housing is being dispersed.

City Council members appeared to be in general support for the developer’s, Little Diamond Housing, a mixed-income project proposed for the 200 North block of Cornell Street, a block north of the Power Station TRAX stop on North Temple.  But council members Andrew Johnston, Erin Mendenhall and Derek Kitchen (council member James Rogers recused himself from the discussion) expressed concern about funding another affordable housing project on the city’s west side.

“I’m not happy about the disproportionate investment of affordable housing in a certain area of the city,” said Mendenhall.

The Cornell Street project will be five stories tall with 146 units, 131 units of which will be reserved for residents earning up to 60 percent AMI (Area Median Income).  The units will be predominantly one and two-bedroom apartments.

According to former Salt Lake County Mayor, Peter Corroon, representing the developers, the majority of the funding is in place for the Cornell Street project.  The project will be partially financed by low-income tax credits and financial assistance from the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund.

Although the project will include some market-rate units, according to staff from the Housing and Neighborhood Development, the market rate units in the Cornell project would technically be considered affordable compared to the city’s average market-rate rents.

The Cornell Street project is one of two mixed-income projects in development on North Temple.  The other project, the North Temple Flats, includes 168 units with 96 income-restricted units and 72 market-rate units.

“This ratio (between affordable and market-rate units) is completely inverted on North Temple going west than anywhere else in the city,” said Johnston.

Johnston told the council that he’d like to see various types of housing that promote affordable housing that fits into both high and low-density neighborhoods and creates a balanced ratio across the city of market rate and affordable housing.

Indeed, the Cornell Street project’s ratio of 90 percent affordable to 10 percent market-rate is inverse the ratio of the Liberty Boulevard Apartments, a mixed-income project by Cowboy Partners on the 400 south block of 700 East.  The 267-unit, Liberty project is 90 percent market rate and 10 percent affordable, with the affordable units reserved for residents earning 80 percent AMI.

Mendenhall argued that it would be better to allow the market in the westside to evolve organically without marrying units to affordable housing and suggested that when the council begins to disperse the $21 million designated last year to go toward affordable housing, they focus on funding future projects outside of districts one, two and possibly four as they already have the highest concentration of the city’s affordable housing units.

Kitchen cited three projects under construction in District Four that are 100 percent income restricted but are predominantly for residents earning around 60 percent AMI or $34,680 for a two-person household.

“When we talk about affordable housing we often talk about projects with deficits of 40 percent AMI and below,” said Kitchen.  “None of these projects address 40 percent or below.”

The council will vote on the Housing Trust Fund loan request at a future formal council meeting.

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