With affordable housing escaping the grasp of many in Salt Lake City and 15.6 percent of the city's housing stock crumbling below federal standards, Utah's capital city has a "housing crisis" on its hands.
To fend off the crisis before it becomes a disaster, city officials, housing advocates and residents gathered Wednesday for the Salt Lake City Housing Conference, a half-day brainstorming session in a downtown hotel.Following hours of working group sessions, the committee released tentative recommendations that Salt Lake City Councilman Tom Godfrey said represent the "first step toward creating Salt Lake City's comprehensive housing policy."
Mayor Palmer DePaulis said the recommendations would be reviewed and incorporated into the policy. The first draft is scheduled for release in 90 days.
Some of the policy, such as a proposed conservation ordinance designed to ease requirements for bringing substandard housing up to code, could be implemented in ordinance form, he said.
Other recommendations include re-evaluating the city's zoning code, creating a residential housing demolition ordinance, installing a housing hotline and enhancing single room occupancy housing in the city (see chart).
While many Salt Lake City office buildings remain largely vacant and home listings in the area are lengthy, affordable housing and rental units for low-income people and the elderly remain scarce, officials said.
"It will come as no surprise to you to hear that Salt Lake City is facing a housing crisis, a crisis which mirrors in many ways the housing dilemma that faces cities across the nation," DePaulis said.
Helen Sause, president of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, agreed, saying in her keynote address that Salt Lake City shares an affliction with countless cities across the nation.
But, she said, "we have one common interest: housing people appropriately . . . so that no one is sleeping in cars, so that no one is homeless."
Federal funding for housing under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was cut 70 percent and federal revenue sharing was eliminated under the Reagan Administration.
Lack of federal support for housing now requires that a housing partnership among all levels of government and the private sector be built to address the city's and the nation's housing crisis.
--Adopt a uniform conservation code to ease requirements for bringing substandard housing up to code.
--Re-evaluate the city's zoning ordinance and consider proposals such as tax incentives and more historic districts.
--Strengthen demolition ordinance so approval of future uses must be obtained before a home is razed.
--Develop better comminication to promote housing assistance opportunities via, for example, housing hotline.
--Expand housing improvement financing through non-rofit organizations such as ASSIST, a private housing agency.
--Create tax incentives to promote single occupancy room housing.
--Target development in real estate market sectors that need assistance most, such as low-income areas.
--Build miniparks via a public-private partnership so vacant lots become aesthetically pleasing.