AFFORDABLE HOUSING?

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Besides the NBA 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 that: “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 Salt Lake County have both closed their waiting lists for Section 8 housing. There aren’t any units available for rent. 

        One new developer here in Salt Lake has put up the Greenprint Apartments on 800 South and 200 West. These micro-unit apartments are 250-350 sq. ft (think hotel room size) and work great for minimalists 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 developers of rental buildings 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. Our rental housing inventory in the state is estimated to be down 43-45,000 housing units, and author James Woods recently stated, “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% vacancy rate-yike! Low inventory/high rents is a fact in the majority of larger cities in the United States and why we’re seeing more homeless camping in tents and in boxes along the main roads and around shelters.

        Second, 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 for the rental pad underneath the home. Affordable lots are a thing of the past, with land values going for $65-300,000 per ¼ acre along the Wasatch Front.  Portland, Oregon has come up with a great idea, though. “A Place for You” is a new experiment where the city will put a 200 sq. ft. modular unit in your back yard for 5 years. You agree to have it put in your yard and the adult and one or two kids who occupy the place will be under strict rules while living there to keep the place in order, not do illegal drugs, adhere to noise ordinances, etc. After 5 years you get to keep the structure and use it as an accessory dwelling/rental. Win/win!

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