Affordable Housing | Urban Living

Affordable Housing

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Besides the NCAA finals and your brackets, the two hottest topics these days are affordable housing and tiny homes. First, affordable housing is really two things: what you think you can pay for a roof over your head, and what the government thinks you can/should be able to afford.

The Housing Authority of the County of Salt Lake warns: "Section 8 housing scams prey on home-seekers and use websites that look like registration sites for Section 8 waiting list lotteries. They take 'registration fee' money, personal information, and offer a chance to register for the real lottery—since these hopefuls usually don't know they've been scammed until the real waiting list is closed." Guess what? Salt Lake City and County closed their waiting lists for Section 8 housing. Nothing is available for rent.

One new developer has constructed the Greenprint Apartments on the 800 South block of 200 West. These micro-unit studios are 250-350 square-feet and rent for $700-$800 per month. This is the cheapest new product I have been able to find anywhere in Utah. Salt Lake City does not require rental building developers to make a percentage of the units affordable, but as a builder you can get certain tax incentives to include some in your overall project. The state's rental housing inventory is estimated to be down 43,000-45,000 units, and—as recently reported by the Deseret News—"For the first time in 40 years, the increase in households in Utah exceeds the number of new housing units." St. George reports less than a 1 percent vacancy rate—yikes!

So, why not get a tiny home? Well, zoning-wise, they aren't allowed in most places in the Salt Lake Valley. You can put one in a trailer park, but have to pay $600-$800 a month to rent the space. Affordable lots are a thing of the past, with land values going for $65,000-$300,000 per quarter-acre along the Wasatch Front. Portland, Ore., has come up with a great idea, though. "A Place for You" is a new experiment where the city will put a 200-square-foot modular unit in your backyard for five years. The agreement includes strict rules the occupants must abide by—no illegal drugs, noise ordinances, etc. After five years, you get to keep the structure and use it as an accessory dwelling/rental. It's a win-win!

Salt Lake City and County own a ton of land, which leads me to wonder: Why not build tiny home villages subsidized by our tax dollars?

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