Poverty in Utah | Urban Living

Poverty in Utah

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It sucks to rent these days. Prices are high and pickings are few—unless, perhaps, you make more than $60,000 per year. According to a study done at Harvard University, the U.S. poverty rate is rising—and low-density suburban neighborhoods are feeling the brunt of it.

But weirdly, Salt Lake City is different. Our poverty rates are soaring, but it's happening in the city's urban neighborhoods.

To explain it simply: Higher income residents have moved to the suburbs over the past 15 years, lowering the per-capita income figure of those remaining in the city.

Apartmentlist.com further analyzed the data from Harvard's study and found that poverty levels in low- and mid-density areas of the Salt Lake Valley dropped 11 percent in those 15 years. The best example is Daybreak, a master-planned community built in 2004 by Rio Tinto. Up until that time, the only residents there were snakes and pot guts. Now, the average price of a home in that area—South Jordan's 84009 zip code—is around $360,000. What you don't see, however, are apartments for $800 per month.

Honestly, every time I drive up to a fast-food joint and order an iced tea, I think to myself, "If they're working full-time for $10 per hour, or about $1,600 per month, how are they able to affording to live anywhere these days? Certainly, they have to live with one or two other wage-earners to have a decent place to live."

The SRO (single resident occupancy) buildings around Pioneer Park are absolute rat holes. And the crappy motels that offer low-cost housing on State Street and North Temple are proven magnets for all sorts of crime.

Provo and Ogden have their share of low-income housing, but O-Town in particular has seen a huge decrease in urban poverty. In the past 15 years, many low-income residents have moved to the suburbs. Historic 25th Street and light rail have brought people back to Ogden's urban area. It's also much cheaper to live there than in Salt Lake City.

Mortgage interest rates still are extremely low. It's "rentonaomics" vs. "buyonomics"—because house payments are basically as cheap as rent. But to buy, you have to have good credit and a good job history with pretty low debt. And that's a whole different column on how to buy these days.

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