New Salt Lake City housing plan envisions 864 affordable units

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Capitol Motel, 1749 South State Street in Salt Lake City Tuesday, November 14, 2017. Salt Lake City might buy this property with a plan to create 150 units, 60 of which would be designated as "affordable."

Salt Lake City would get 864 new below-market-rate dwellings under a possible framework for building much-needed affordable housing reviewed Tuesday by the city’s Redevelopment Agency.

The plan is the first broad-brush look at how the city could spend $21.6 million that has been set aside for affordable housing development. The agency, whose board comprises City Council members, will review a second option publicly this month.

“This is a starting place for a conversation about affordable housing,” said Councilwoman and RDA board Chairwoman Lisa Adams, adding that no one “expects to have this adopted as is.”

The plan that was reviewed Tuesday would meet the city’s goals for encouraging mixed-income housing, for building more housing for the poorest households at risk of homelessness, for adding new market-rate rentals and for revitalizing neighborhoods.

It proposes partnering with housing developers to mix in a total of 200 affordable units — homes for people who earn 40 percent or less of area median income, which is about $25,000 for a family of four in Salt Lake City — to what would otherwise be market-rate projects. It would also offer incentives to mixed-income project developers if they make their affordable units less expensive.

A second focus, or “tactic,” is to buy land for new mixed-income projects. Six sites were identified with potential for 664 affordable units among 1,227 units in all. The site-specific plans:

The RDA last month purchased the 255 S. State St. site for just over $4 million and will spend an estimated $300,000 to prepare the site. It also has committed $500,000 toward acquiring 525 S. 500 West.

Those funds, plus the $21.6 million identified last year for affordable housing development, put the total outlay under the plan at almost $26.5 million, or $30,629 per affordable unit.

The city’s long-term housing plan has a ballpark goal of creating 1,000 affordable housing units scattered throughout the city, including in “high opportunity” neighborhoods — areas with better quality-of-life measures on schools, housing, jobs and income.

The RDA board was receptive to the plan but cautious. There are different ways the eventual housing program could be managed. The council, as RDA board, may seek to have the agency retain control over implementing whatever plan is selected. Another option is for it to be overseen by the city’s Housing Trust Fund, whose board members are appointed by the mayor.

“I personally believe that it stays within the RDA so that council can have as much influence over what happens — not because we disagree with what’s in the plan,” said Councilman and RDA board member Charlie Luke. “But each project is going to be different, each location is different, and I think it’s important that we maintain that responsibility we have over the funds of the city.”

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