Over the last year a check-out time from the Single-Room Occupancy housing in downtown’s Regis Hotel has been hanging over it’s residents, the time now appears to be next week.---
“Each of us has life and death reasons for staying at the Regis which make it difficult if not impossible for us to leave on [March 9], reads a letter from Regis tenants to Luke Garrott, councilman for District 4 and council chairman for the city Redevelopment Agency.
“Besides March being one of the coldest times of the year, it is obvious to us that if we are evicted many, or most, of us will be homeless.”
With eviction finally looming, tenants have admitted that as many as ten of the residents of the Regis have been doing part time work to pay their rent and will have no income to allow them to pay rent at the city’s other subsidized housing options at Palmer Court (999 S. Mani) or the soon to be renovated Rio Grande Hotel (428 W. 200 South).
Still many officials point out the pains the city has taken to help residents relocate, only to have the tenants decide simply to stay at the Regis.
“We are doing everything we can,” says Lisa-Harrison Smith, spokeswoman for Salt Lake City mayor Ralph Becker. “But ultimately, it’s up to them--it’s a personal choice.”
Smith says that since May 2009, city and RDA staff has been coordinating one-on-one meetings with tenants to help guide them through the transition. In December 2009, the firm selected to renovate the Regis, developer Ben Logue’s Laporte Group, even offered current tenants of the Regis the opportunity to move into subsidized housing at the Stratford (175 E. 200 South), for comparable prices to the Regis and offer them first selection of subsidized housing back at the Regis once renovations were complete.
While Laporte Group had not returned comment at the time of this post, housing advocates say no tenants of the Regis decided to make the move.
“Undoubtedly it’s a community there, and people are connected to each other,” says Garrott. “Unfortunately these are not wards of the city.” With as many offers to accommodate as the city has proffered in the past, Garrott says the developer needs to advance on the project and at this time that requires the building to be vacated. A dirty job, he says that no one in the city is looking forward to.
“Renters get the shaft frequently, and these folks being more disadvantaged than most, are getting it harder,” Garrott says adding however that pushing a deadline at this point won’t change the bottom line. “It doesn’t change the fundamental fact that these people need to find other accommodations.”
Low-income housing advocate with the Crossroads Urban Center, Tim Funk disagrees.
“Tough times call for tough measures,” Funk writes in an email, arguing that even if evictions are necessary, they’re not necessary right now.
“This is the worst economic situation for the poor in fifty years. All of the remaining residents qualify as poor. Working on an assignment at the Road Home and the%uFFFD
4th Street Clinic two weeks ago I ran into former residents who are now officially homeless. They could no longer afford the $80 week. If evicted there will be more homeless,” Funk writes.
He adds that many of the current Regis tenants may not be able to swing the criminal background checks needed for Palmer Court and Logue’s subsidized housing and since the developer may not begin actual demolition until much later in the year, there would be no more harm in keeping the embattled Regis tenants right where they’re at until the weather gets warmer.
“[March] is an awful time to be on the streets,” Funk writes. “I could go on but frankly many of them [Regis tenants] can’t and won’t and the city is directly responsible for their fate.”