A new study shows Utahns have to make about $37,000 a year to afford a two-bedroom apartment without breaking the bank.
To rent a two-bedroom apartment — including utilities — a Utah household needs to make about $18 an hour, according to new research out today from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. To put it in perspective, that number is up 75 cents in the last year, and most renters in Utah make about $14 an hour. The minimum wage is $7.25.
Democratic State Rep. Joel Briscoe said he's worried it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a place to live for low-income people, especially those who are exiting homelessness.
“This is not a Utah issue, this is like the opioid crisis. This is nationwide,” Briscoe said. “But Utah can’t ignore this and we can’t wish this away. Magical thinking is not going to produce more affordable housing in Utah.”
Briscoe is calling for more state funding for affordable housing, and he noted Massachusetts recently bonded $2 billion for housing in that state.
Utah’s faced an affordable housing shortage for some time. Lawmakers went into the 2018 legislative session knowing the state had a 40,000-unit affordable housing gap, but left without taking meaningful action. Plus, housing vacancies are at historic lows in Salt Lake City.
Briscoe said zoning laws are also a barrier: A lot of neighborhoods don’t allow for multi-family housing.
Ashley Hoopes is Executive Director of Circles Salt Lake where she helps connect low-income families to resources that help lift them out of poverty.
“When you have zoning that exists that doesn’t allow for people to rent their basement apartment or their mother-in-law apartment or put an apartment over the garage, it really prevents these families from having a chance,” Hoopes said.
Utah’s doing slightly better than some of its Western neighbors.
According to the recent study, Colorado renters need to make about $24 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment. In Nevada and Arizona it’s about $19 an hour.