I hope yot don't get too bored reading this column. It's about how great we are as a state, and how awesome Salt Lake City is when compared statistically to other cities. Yeah, we're a pretty great state. But like so many states, we have a huge housing crisis where there's little, if any, affordable housing in or close to metro areas.
Growing Salt Lake was published recently by city staff and the City Council to look at housing data projected over the next five years. It includes grim facts and figures. Here are some highlights that might make you cry:
•"While 'market rate' apartment inventory continues to grow, affordable multi-family is at a net loss. Many existing affordable units throughout the city are being leased at higher rental rates due to market demand. In the fastest growing areas of the city, such as downtown and Sugar House, they are being sold and converted to housing for those with higher incomes."
•"Among renters, single-parent families and minority households may have some of the greatest housing needs as they are more likely than other households to live in poverty. Both have low rates of home ownership."
•"A quarter of renters are severely cost burdened, spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing costs. This situation prevents those with low incomes from being able to afford the basic necessities of life and further exacerbates the issues surrounding poverty."
•"7,500 affordable rental units are needed to meet the needs of the city's lowest income renters (those earning $20,000 and less per year)."
The city and the state own massive amounts of property. If you were to go to a private owner of a half-acre lot in the city and ask them to sell, they most likely wouldn't give you a screaming deal—it's a seller's market. We can't build more land. Here's a suggestion: The city could give up some of its property if and only if they got a reasonable price and the developer agreed to only build affordable housing on the lot. Maybe the city could offer a discount on surplus property if the developer agreed to build housing for the lowest-income renters. No, I don't want to see Salt Lake full of just landlords and tenants. I'd like to see the city liquidate some of its properties in favor of low-income developments. Data we can get anywhere. But housing? Well, these days it seems like the only affordable options are the back of a dumpster or in the bushes along the Jordan River.