Planning for Housing Affordability
Increase housing supply
Lower the cost of building
Increase real wages
Grow our housing safety net
Indirect Benefits from:
The rising cost of housing is on everyone’s mind these days. It’s no wonder. Housing is the single largest expense for most households. Which is why housing affordability is central to so many of the issues we care about: the cost of living, aging in place, the health and vitality of our neighborhoods, social justice, homelessness, to name a few.
How do we make housing more affordable—for ourselves, our neighbors, and the next generation?
The answer is multi-faceted… Among other things, we need to increase housing supply, lower the cost of building, slow demand, increase real wages, and invest in a safety net for those who still can’t afford a place to live.
So what does that look like, on the ground?
First, a little math…
Salt Lake City has about 85,000 units housing our 200,000 or so residents. Over the next 20–30 years, it’s expected that Salt Lake City will double in population and we’ll need to add 85,000 more housing units (give or take), just to keep up; 100,000 to get ahead of the curve.
Increase housing Supply
Housing supply is our most pressing hurdle. We could achieve all of our other housing goals, but without increased supply, affordable housing isn’t possible.
But here’s a secret: we don’t need to turn our city into something unrecognizable to double the supply of housing. When cities rely predominantly on single family homes and giant apartment complexes to meet housing needs, they run into all sorts of problems. But these aren’t the only tools available to us. ADUs (think mother-in-law apartments or lofts above the garage), co-housing, duplexes and triplexes, commercial conversions (warehouses converted into apartments or condos), and over-retail housing (think a small apartment above a hair salon) can get us a long way to our goal.
A word about ADUs… Accessory dwelling units are a low-impact way to increase housing supply across the city. They’re also a proven way to help homeowners stretch their budgets, age in place, and fend off displacement. Sadly, our most vulnerable homeowners are also the least likely to undertake an ADU conversion. Working with our community partners, Salt Lake City needs to develop programs that prioritize and facilitate ADUs and similar conversions among our at-risk communities.
lower the cost of building
While nothing about housing affordability is simple, it probably goes without saying that a building that costs more to construct will cost more to buy or lease or rent. And while Salt Lake City isn’t in a good position to affect the price of steel or concrete, there are some costs where Salt Lake City and our partners can move the needle…
Parking: Parking isn’t free. Garage stalls cost about $30,000 to build. One stall per unit? You’ve added thirty grand to the price tag. Two stalls? Sixty grand. Even parking lots use up valuable land, driving up costs of development. Completing a comprehensive parking masterplan—which inventories parking assets and community needs and then outlines how best to proceed—is the first step in lowering the cost of parking (and housing) for everyone.
Skilled Labor: We currently face a shortage of skilled sheet rockers, plumbers, electricians, and the like—and that drives up the price of construction. Salt Lake City needs to work with education, community, and business stakeholders to increase the number of graduates from area trades programs. In so doing, we’ll lower the cost of housing while creating a generation of workers with needed skills.
increase real wages
No discussion about housing affordability is complete without a discussion of living wages. This is why Salt Lake City needs to champion a living wage at the regional or—better yet—state level.
Zoning is the worst possible tool for creating world-class, affordable neighborhoods. Zoning makes housing more expensive, encourages disruptive development, and deepens socio-economic divides. Form-based code makes good development easier, more predicable, and more equitable.
Grow our Housing safety net
Housing options for low-income residents are an essential part of any city’s housing toolkit. My administration will partner with the Utah Housing Coalition and other community and business stakeholders to expand our housing safety net.
* * *
Here are a few other areas of my platform that will improve housing affordability:
Mobility Independence: When getting around a city is easy and low-cost, choosing where to live—and how much to spend—becomes less problematic. This translates into lower housing costs for everyone. More…
Regional Rail: Connecting Salt Lake City to every corner of the state will improve housing affordability by reducing demand on housing. This happens because regional rail expands the distance commuters can easily travel. Regional rail also invigorates rural economies, allowing more people to stay in the communities they love. More coming soon…
Home Rule: Achieving true housing affordability will require innovation that would be made easier with the passage of an amendment to the Utah state constitution. This amendment would grant cities more freedom to set their own tax, land use, and other policies. More coming soon…
Public Bank: A city-chartered public bank would leverage our city’s liquid assets to fund projects that align with our values and priorities—and then channel the interest those loans generate back into our neighborhoods. Housing is a natural beneficiary of such investment. More coming soon…
Help me share this vision with others.