How the SLC wants to promote affordable housing and why many oppose the plans

New incentives that Salt Lake City leaders hope will encourage the construction of more affordable housing came under extended shock Wednesday from low-income advocates and dozens of residents who say the moves threaten their neighborhoods.

In the works since late 2019, zoning changes – formerly known as the affordable housing overlay – are aimed at lowering barriers and enticing more rebuilding and redevelopment on existing properties, with the potential for new apartments, cottages, cottages, townhouses and the like. Dwellings that are built in enclaves are more established than single-family homes.

Proposed modifications to allowable density, additional building height, smaller setbacks, a reduction in the number of parking spaces required per dwelling, and a quick review of City Hall, are supported by Mayor Erin Mendenhall, in a multifaceted effort to help alleviate an acute shortage of affordable rents and homes for sale. in the capital of Utah.

In exchange for taking advantage of the incentives, landlords and developers will be required to allocate roughly 20% of the resulting new homes to subsidize rent, matching the budgets of those making no more than 80% of the city’s median income. The timeline for putting these incentives in place calls for more hearings in the spring and summer, followed by review and possible approval from the city council — which has the final say on zoning changes — in the fall.

But the two-hour public hearing late Wednesday before the planning committee on the ideas drew a barrage of criticism, from several points of view — though everyone seemed to agree that the projected rents of $1,400 a month under the plans were out of reach for most. population.

“This is definitely better than nothing,” said Andra Ghent, panel member and professor of finance and real estate at the University of Utah. But, Ghent added, “It’s really shy, given that we’ve seen 35% growth in house prices in the last two years and more than 20% growth in rents.”

She and other members of the panel, including President Amy Barry, urged city planners to lower affordability requirements, while housing advocates at the grassroots group Wasatch Tenants United said the city’s current approach appeared to ignore blue-collar families who are under pressure due to High costs.

“This proposal is clearly not designed for renters, for casual workers or for people just looking for housing,” said group member David Newlin, who urged that the rent limit be accessible to those making 30% of the median income in the area rather than That – that’s up to half of all new living spaces that were produced under the changes are kept at affordable prices.

The rent at $1,400 a month, Josh Mimmott, another member of Wasatch Tenants United, said, “is more than double what I’m currently paying. People will continue to be pushed out of town as rental prices continue to rise.”

Trouble tracking short-term rentals

Residents and committee members alike complained about what they said was inadequate application of the city’s existing rules against homeowners who build outbuildings such as backyard cottages or mother-in-laws and garage apartments and then use them as short-term rentals listed on Airbnb or Vrbo.

Utah law limits how city officials can use those sites and other tools to monitor short-term rentals, forcing them to rely on resident complaints.

“We already have a source of affordable housing that is underutilized,” said panelist and US architecture professor Brenda Scheer, adding that she recently counted as many as 1,500 housing units in the city being deployed illegally in the short term. Basis.

“I can count it, but the city can’t,” she added, referring to the future employment burden of monitoring hundreds of new homes built under the latest stimulus that were supposed to remain affordable under contract restrictions.

Cher asked, “If we can’t enforce this, how are we going to enforce this?”

City Planning Director John Anderson later admitted that enforcement on short-term rentals “is a problem. We’d like more help.”

The zoning incentives also led to a significant backsliding of homeowners on the East Seat as well as the West Side, with dozens testifying against the proposals compared to a handful in support. While many have praised efforts to bring affordable homes, they have repeatedly expressed opposition to most key elements of the plan.

Leaders from five community councils — Yalecrest, Sugar House, Fairpark, Ballpark and Foothill-Sunnyside — have joined individual residents in opposing changes that deal with what is allowed in some of the city’s oldest single-family neighborhoods.

According to prominent city planner Sarah Gavoronok, the incentives will allow condominiums, three- and four-unit buildings, groups of row homes, and home developments on packages currently intended for one- and two-family homes — but only on properties within a quarter mile of mass transit. Or adjacent to the arterial streets.

Gavoronok said the incentives are aimed at expanding the range of housing types available in neighborhoods that have long been reserved exclusively for single-family homes and duplexes. City documents say housing under the changes is “intended to be morphologically compatible with the neighborhood and to provide safe and comfortable places to live and play.”

Is this just a handout for developers?

Obviously, some residents fear otherwise, saying that the resulting construction could alter, fragment, and even destroy the character of their communities, reduce property values ​​and exacerbate street parking problems.

“We live in a beautiful neighborhood that is well planned and well thought out,” said Ben Oveson, a homeowner in the 15th and 15th districts. “That kind of transgression and everything that gets thrown out the window and we say, ‘This has no value anymore. “”

“I don’t feel that this benefits anyone, except for property developers,” Oveson added.

Community activist and owner Cindy Cromer said the proposal “does absolutely nothing for people like me who are already offering affordable or less expensive, more modest housing without subsidies.”

Several attendees called for direct rent controls on existing housing to improve affordability, which state law prohibits.

Residents also opposed the idea that increasing the city’s total housing stock would eventually lead to more affordable options.

Highland Park resident Jan Lundquist referred to Sugar House, Highland Drive Trail, Brickyard and 2100 South as places “we actually have a lot of high-density housing around.”

“Why not make it accessible to everyone?” Lundquist asked.

Deep concerns about the impacts on traffic and parking have also emerged from reducing on-street parking requirements to one space per new dwelling.

“Many existing homes have one-car driveways or no driveways,” said Brian Burnett, Vice President of the Foothill-Sunnyside Community Council. “This proposal means more people fighting for street parking.

“The families are looking for this area because of its character and division,” he added. The proposed changes would “discourage families from buying from here.”

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