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These Salt Lake westsiders were displaced from their homes, here’s where they are now

Salt Lake Westside Displacement, Tina Holt Balderrama
Ivana Martinez
“I don't see them in eastside neighborhoods tearing up the little Caucasian kids’ neighborhoods,” Tina Holt Balderrama said on the balcony of her apartment complex. “They're not taking away their streets that they play on. They're not tearing up their neighborhoods. And I know it. You can drive around the city and see it, but they sure hit our neighborhood hard.”

A little more than a year ago, Tina Holt Balderrama was displaced from her duplex in Rose Park. With few options, she, her two grandchildren and two dogs moved about a 20-minute drive south to an apartment complex in Murray.

The change has been difficult for her family and expensive, given her fixed income. Holt Balderrama said she went from paying $1,300 a month in rent and utilities for her two-bedroom, one-bathroom unit to $1,500.

Her brother’s family was also recently displaced and has since moved in with her into a three-bedroom apartment. Ten people now live there.

“This place is bad,” she said as she walked back into her apartment along the parkway strip filled with dog feces. “As bad as it is, it's a step above [being] homeless. It's a palace compared to [being] homeless and being on the streets. And that's the worst part of it, that we've done nothing wrong. We've paid our bills. We've paid our debts to society. We've been a part of the community, and we've just been tossed to the curb this way. It just isn't right, no matter which way I look at it.”

For the six years she lived in the Rose Park neighborhood, she felt she had a safe place for her grandchildren to grow up in. But then developers bought the land, and a new apartment complex was planned for her block.

On Saturday, Rose Park Brown Berets, a political activist group, held a rally with Holt Balderrama and Gaspar Valencia, who was also displaced, to raise awareness about the ongoing gentrification happening in the area. In the past, they’ve called on the city to halt any more developments until the city’s gentrification study was finished.

The first phase of the study was finished in July and found that “there are no 'more affordable' neighborhoods in Salt Lake City where lower income families can move once displaced.”

After she contacted Salt Lake City Council member Chris Wharton, he helped her find a new place to live.

Salt Lake Westside Displacement, Tina Holt Balderrama, overflowing apartment trash
Ivana Martinez
"It's like the city dump," Balderrama said. "Pictures don't do it justice. This [trash] is below our windows where they set the kids to come down."

Holt Balderrama doesn’t feel safe in her new home. In 2021, a 32-year-old woman was stabbed and killed in the complex’s parking lot. And she complains about the trash that is littered around the complex and the overflowing dumpster that’s a few feet away from her home.

During the last year, Holt Balderrama commuted her grandchildren into their old Rose Park school and plans to do the same this year. It’s something more Salt Lake families are doing as they’re forced to relocate to other parts of the county.

Holt Balderrama said she doesn’t want to disrupt her grandchildren’s lives anymore. So, she takes twice the time it used to and travels up to Rose Park.

We tried to conform after about eight months. We thought we'd give it a try and it did not work out,” Holt Balderrama said. “It was horrible trying to send my kids to school down here. It only lasted two days before we ended up back at their old school. They've never been to a different elementary, and it was devastating to them. So it's easier for me to take the bus or to Trax back into the neighborhood every single day, twice a day.”

Salt Lake Westside Displacement, Gaspar Valencia
Ivana Martinez
"I think the only thing I am most against is how they raise their prices and how they make the community more and more likely to stay on the street," Gaspar Valencia said. "Because it is something very hard, especially for me. Personally, my experience was very difficult because I was handling my divorce, the court demanded [that I have] a house where my children could live, I couldn't get a one bedroom apartment. I couldn't get something cheap, and I say cheap in quotes because we're still talking about $1,000."

Gaspar Valencia’s family was also displaced from his home in the Rose Park neighborhood where they lived for eight years. At the time, he hoped to buy the home so his family could continue living there. But the owner sold the land to a developer.

He went from paying $500 for his four-bedroom, one-bathroom house on the west side of Salt Lake City to $2,700 for a three-bedroom house in Kearns.

Valencia said it’s been a difficult transition for his children and for his work. Now, he gets less sleep and has less time as he tries to make ends meet.

“In reality, it has affected me a lot, financially, because, in order to move in, they also asked me for a very expensive downpayment,” he said in his kitchen. “So I had to use the new credit cards that I had. So that has affected me and has kept me under pressure.”

He, like Holt Balderrama, commutes his kids back to their old schools and his drive to work is much longer. Valencia works in construction and often has to drive to Ogden.

“They feel confused about how they feel,” he said. “And as they told me, ‘We don't feel so comfortable because we left behind our history, our friends.’ Well, it is a bit sad right? What they are experiencing. But I try in the afternoons when I come back from work to take them to the same area, to the fields where we used to go to play so they don’t feel such a harsh change.”

Valencia is trying to manage the debt incurred by the move but also feels the heavy effects of inflation.

While he’s grateful for the support he’s gotten from the community, he hopes that when developers come into an area they assist families in a transition to another home and won’t leave them to fend for themselves in Utah’s tight housing market.

Ivana is a general assignment reporter
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