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Too Much News!



A lot of folks are going to be happy that $1,400 is going to appear in their bank accounts from ol' Uncle Sam in a minute. That is, if your adjusted gross income is below $75,000, or, if you're married and make less than $150,000, you'll get $2,800. The payments are based on your 2019 or 2020 income depending on when you filed your 2020 tax return. Good news is that if you owe taxes, they won't be taken out of the stimulus check if you qualify for that $1,400 windfall. The stimulus package that Biden just signed also extends unemployment benefits from the feds for those who qualify until Sept. 6, 2021, to the tune of $300 a week, which will be added on top of any Utah state unemployment benefits. The best thing about this new relief package is that people who got benefits in 2020 will not be taxed on that income under $10,200. Believe it or not, unemployment benefits are generally taxing during non-pandemic years.

Locally, the Utah Legislature just ended its 45-day session and tried to make a dent in our housing crisis within our state borders. First, there's going to be a designated housing/homelessness "czar" with HB347, which will fund the one person standing atop the mountain to oversee homeless and low-income projects and programs. This person will oversee a new Office of Homeless Services within the Department of Workforce Services and sit on the newly formed Utah Homelessness Council with state officials, members of the Legislature, mayors, members of the public, service providers and religious leaders. There are also state funds going to preserve what little affordable housing units we have.

Simply stated, when an apartment building gets old and ratty, the owner(s) might sell it to a flipper, and the property is torn down and replaced with higher-priced housing. This bill will help rehab older buildings to keep them for affordable-housing units. Another related bill (finally!) that passed is SB164 that requires the state to conduct an inventory of surplus state-owned property throughout the state to see if any of it can be used/converted to affordable housing. That one is a big "d'oh!" I've been waiting to see for years!

The other bill I supported and even wrote in support of was HB82. We're down almost 50,000 affordable housing units in this state, and one of the answers to this crisis is allowing people to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on their property. Basically, it standardizes the myriad city to city/county to county rules to allow for more ADUs to exist for parents who want to modify the "shack in the back" to let Grandma or the kids live there. It's hell for property owners in many cases to get these simple dwellings approved, and hopefully this bill will make it easier to do so in the future to help make a dent in affordable-housing options in Utah.