Salt Lake City legalizes 4-plexes in all residential areas, ending single-family-only zoning citywide

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The Salt Lake City Council voted 6-1 to dramatically change the future of infill housing in Salt Lake City on Tuesday night.

Responding to demands to provide more affordable housing options across the city, not just on the lower-income west side, a piece of legislation named Affordable Housing Incentives has finally ground its way to completion at City Hall. It began in the administration of the previous mayor, Jackie Biskupski (2016-19).

It’s perhaps the biggest piece of pro-housing policy change in the city ever.

Here’s our brief explainer

Our most recent article, from September, is here. To the essentials:

No kidding. As long as affordability requirements are met, owners of lots can now provide four units in all residential zones. Here’s an example of the amended ordinance. Strike-throughs are deletions and underlined text is new language. Both are highly significant.

Witness the death of single-family-only zoning in SLC code. Here are changes in the Purpose Statement for the largest single-family zone, R-1/12,000. The same language has been applied to all R zones.

Affordability requirements. In residential zones, if it’s for-sale housing, half of units must be affordable to people at 100% of AMI. If rental housing, 50% of the units must be available to people at 80% AMI.

What types of housing may we see? Here are examples from the planning department from our June story.

A nod to historic preservation and naturally-occurring affordable housing. If an existing building is maintained, those requirements go down to 25%, or one unit of four.

These are not aggressive affordable housing requirements. How many below-market units will actually be produced under the ordinance? Note: in other, more intense residential and mixed-use zones, demands aren’t any higher to produce affordable units.

Guarding against encroachment. In residential zones, setback requirements and lot coverage maximums are not be reduced from current standards – addressing the fears of encroachment by neighbors. This may prove to suppress development, and will certainly challenge designers.

Stimulating missing-middle development in antiquated multi-family zones. In a hack to modernize the RMF zones because of limited department resources in the wake of RMF-30 reform, planners added a work-around that waives minimum lot width and lot size-per-dwelling requirements in RMF-35, -45, and -75 zones if affordability requirements are met.

You can find the latest city staff reports, transmittals, and ordinance changes here.

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected. It originally stated that off-street parking is not required. In most cases, one stall per unit must be supplied in small projects in residential zones.

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Posted by Luke Garrott

Luke Garrott, PhD, has published in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, and written features for the Salt Lake City Weekly City Guide and The West View. A former two-term councilman in Salt Lake City's District 4, he lives in Downtown Salt Lake City and grew up in the Chicago area.