Affordable Future | Urban Living

Affordable Future

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The Salt Lake City Council just passed its first housing plan in almost two decades. I was not at the meeting, but a council member told me the mayor was so pleased that she left the meeting for a photo op in the hall with a "Utah champagne" (Martinelli's) toast on silver platters. Mind you, this housing plan supposedly focuses on future affordable housing but not units that will appear for rent in the next month. It's a directive to have city departments collaborate to craft an ordinance by the end of January 2018 that would require property sold by the city to have a number of affordable housing options. The plan is called GrowingSLC and focuses on updating zoning laws, codes and "establishment of a significant funding source, stabilizing low-income tenants, innovation in design, partnerships and equitable and fair housing."

My wife and I spent Thanksgiving in the New York City area and had many discussions with friends who rent or own property there. One couple lives in a large housing complex in Manhattan where apartments are only available to individuals earning less than $23,000 per year—the waiting list is probably a hundred years! The New York City Council just held its final meeting of the year and spent much of it discussing housing. They asked the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development to create an online tool where New Yorkers can access information about landlords and what building violations and tenant complaints have been filed. The council also asked the department to get more aggressive in finding sites and vacant buildings where more affordable housing could be built. They are currently converting the Queens Hospital Center into 206 units of affordable housing, and the Black National Theater on 125th Street will have 240 affordable apartments built next to its new 30,000-square-foot theater. Every bit helps, even in a city as large as the Big Apple.

Back in our own capital city, the $17.6 million in funds approved by the city council to support affordable housing construction, and the $10 million for developers and community groups to use for housing projects might help with our pathetic affordable-rent inventory in a year or so. But what would help more is a change in rules so more mother-in-law apartments and accessory dwelling units could be created in the city. So far, the NIMBYs in the Avenues and Harvard-Yale areas have yelled loud enough to keep the council from passing a city-wide ordinance to allow for more of this type of housing.

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