Council pushes for affordable housing to be mixed-income and near transit

The Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City (RDA) has $10 million in funds available for the development and preservation of affordable housing.  But before distributing the money to developers, city council members want to ensure that those funds go to projects that do more than just provide income-restricted housing.

On Tuesday, May 8 the Salt Lake City Council, acting as the RDA Board of Directors, discussed what final terms should be in the Notice of Funding Availablity (NOFA) for the $10 million and how to ensure that the city’s housing goals are satisfied through the competitive funding process.

Under the NOFA process, interested developers and property managers would apply for low-interest loans for projects that comply with housing priorities the council, acting as the board of directors, established in November 2017.  Those initial priorities include encouraging housing near transit corridors and in high opportunity and mixed-income neighborhoods while encouraging sustainability, housing type diversity, neighborhood revitalization,  leveraging private equity, innovation and long-term affordability and discouraging the displacement of residents as neighborhoods gentrify.

Through a series of straw polls, the council acting as the Board of Directors decided which priorities should be required or prioritized for developers competing for RDA funds.

“A lot of these are issues that I want in policy,” said Council Chair Erin Mendenhall.  “They become administrative discretion when they are in a memo but become the letter of the law when they are in policy.  I’m looking to bind our values here to the policy and the money.”

With a planned expansion of the city’s transit network, Mendenhall’s first proposal was to include language that establishes priority for housing projects that are within a half-mile walking distance of a fixed transit route or any lines in the frequent transit network outlined in the city’s Transit Master Plan.

The board agreed with Mendenhall’s request and in a straw poll, voted unanimously to include the transit mandate with council member Charlie Luke abstaining.

Council members also sought clarification of “high opportunity areas” as the council has mandated that $4.5 million of the $10 million be earmarked for projects in areas of high opportunity.  The council also unanimously voted to give priority to mixed-income projects, to avoid the clustering of low-income residents.

Because of the requested changes, RDA staff will update the draft NOFA and return next month with the revised terms.  Once the final terms are established, the RDA will then reach out to developers for proposals.  As is done with loan requests from the Housing Trust Loan Funds, the council, acting as the RDA Board of Directors will have the final decision on which projects will receive funding.

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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.