Confronting Salt Lake's housing crisis will not only be an exercise in assisting the needy but also an effort in assuring profitability for developers, officials said at a fair-housing conference last week.
"I think we have to be humanistic about this, but we have to be smart business people, too," Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis told the Salt Lake County Community Housing Resource Board.The conference, entitled "Utah: Now a Fair Housing State, a Hands-on Approach," focused on the effects and implementation of the state's new fair-housing law passed this year by the Utah Legislature.
Salt Lake City is developing a "comprehensive housing policy," DePaulis told the conference, to attack what the mayor has called a housing crisis in Utah's capitol city.
Thirty percent of the city's housing falls below federal housing standards, and the city's downtown area suffers from a dearth of available, low-income and single-room occupancy housing units, despite a prevailing housing glut.
DePaulis' housing policy, still in its development stages, focuses on providing emergency housing for the homeless, transitional housing and other housing opportunities, DePaulis told the conference.
But attacking the housing dilemma must be done with a keen sense of business, DePaulis said. And the business of providing fair housing, developer Richard Prows said, must be motivated by a single incentive: profit.
"The point is without the incentive of profit it will not happen," said Prows, a partner in Prowswood, a development company.
Prows called developers the housing advocate's best friend because of their willingness to take financial risks to build needed housing developments.
"You should build monuments to the developer," Prows told the conference.
"The developer is the only advocate for housing in the community . . . don't beat on them, help them," he added.
Many incentives for housing development have been removed with the passage of the 1986 tax reform package, eliminating tax incentives for property ownership, Prows said.
What's more, climbing interest rates have made it difficult to borrow money at a low enough rate to guarantee affordable housing for tenants and homebuyers as well as profit for the developer, he said.
"Whatever you do to address these problems . . . find ways to provide incentives for the developers who take the risks," Prows said.