Salt Lake residents dealt an array of problems and suggestions to housing officials Wednesday night during a public hearing to voice concerns about housing.
"We feel frustrated. We feel the city's against us," said John Anderson, a resident who told the panel members he owns 32 rental units in Salt Lake City.Anderson said he is concerned with the amount of empty housing in the downtown and said the city does little to help property owners alleviate the problem. The city should "upzone" certain areas, help property owners with lower or reduced taxes and discourage the bulldozing of existing homes, he said.
City and housing officials listened to these and other problems and proposed solutions as a prelude to the Salt Lake Housing Conference, which will be held Jan. 25.
"What we are doing is looking for a creative way that we as a community can work together and solve our problems," City Councilman Tom Godfrey told the audience that filled the Salt Lake Main Library lecture hall. "You are the ones presenting the concerns."
Hermoine Jex, chairwoman of the Land Use Committee of the Salt Lake Association of Community Councils, said the foremost housing concern needing to be changed is the attitudes of government decision-makers who do not give housing issues top priority.
"As long as that feeling and prejudice exists, housing and a stable surrounding cannot survive," she said. "And with the crumbling of home, school, church and neighborhood comes the deterioration of an entire community."
She said her committee also recommends the formation of a state Housing/Neighborhood Commission to be appointed from the community councils of Utah.
Another resident, Kim Anderson, told the panel Salt Lake City needs to be marketed as a "comfortable, safe place to live." He also said tax abatements should be given to homeowners who can't afford to improve their houses.
"It's less expensive to tear them down than (to restore their homes and) pay taxes on them," he said. "You should abate taxes to restore instead of tear down."
Barry Ashom, another resident, also called for incentives to homeowners who don't want to restore their homes because they would then be required to pay more in taxes. He also called for incentives for home buyers to purchase property in Salt Lake's older neighborhoods.
Anderson also called for better neighborhood representation on the housing council. "Even though they may be residents, they seem to be more business-oriented and not neighborhood-oriented," he said.