Even affordable housing tenants feel the pressures of Salt Lake City’s climbing rents
Cecilia Castillo and her family have called her modest three-bedroom Salt Lake City apartment home for the past seven years. They live in an affordable housing complex managed by the Housing Assistance Management Enterprise, a local nonprofit under the Housing Authority of Salt Lake City.
When it was time to renew the lease, Castillo received notice from the property manager at the 257 North Apartments on 257 N. Redwood Road that the rent would increase from $1,100 to $1,380. They were told to leave if they couldn’t afford the new rent.
“This is not fair. Only my husband works. I have one child [with a] disability, and I can't work because he's the baby. He has microcephaly,” she said. “If they increase the rent, we need to leave.”
It’s a similar situation for single mom Sara Price. During her 10 years in the 330 North Apartments on 330 N 800 W, she has never experienced a rent hike so steep. While her lease isn’t up yet, she said the property manager told her the rent would go up from $916 for a two-bedroom to “a minimum of $1,300” by December.
If she can’t come up with the money, she said they will have to move out. But other apartments around Utah’s Capitol are going for market value, which is around $1,600 a month.
“We’re going to have to find something that will work. It could mean getting into a one-bedroom for the two of us and just totally flip the comfort that we've had and have to make some changes that aren't for the better,” Price said.
Castillo noted multiple maintenance concerns with the property. There was a cockroach infestation that she said the owners failed to address, and that she’s fixed various problems on her own. Castillo also asked to have a wheelchair ramp installed for her son. The accommodation was approved by the Housing Authority of Salt Lake City in November 2022.
But she said the complex installed two moveable metal ramps that didn’t fully cover one of the concrete steps, making it impossible for her son to leave the apartment during snowy conditions.
“It’s hard when my son goes to school because there is a lot of snow. It’s bad,” Castillo said. “They told me they don’t have money to put in another ramp.”
With the help of the Tenants Union of Salt Lake, Castillo joined Vecinos Unidos, an organizing effort with roughly 30 other tenants in her complex and another managed by the same nonprofit. They want to confront and negotiate with the company for what they consider to be an unexplained rent hike, among other concerns.
A few members of the group delivered a letter to the property management office on the last day of June, asking HAME to stop the rent increase and address the ongoing maintenance concerns.
“For years our units have been poorly maintained if not downright neglected,” the letter reads. “It is unacceptable that we endure mold, rotted carpets, dysfunctional appliances, broken windows, gutters detached from our roofs, and other unsafe and unsanitary conditions.”
After they handed off the letter, two employees with the housing authority met with the tenants outside and said they were “going to look into” the rent increase and follow up with the residents next week.
In an email to KUER, Britnee Dabb, the deputy director of the housing authority, said the rent hike notice given to current tenants “was improperly stated in a letter the residents received and will be corrected by our property management team.”
She added the two properties in question are “market-rate sites” where tenants can use housing vouchers. However, Dabb did confirm there will still be a rent hike of 10%, “which is roughly $100,” and that the price of a unit is higher for new residents moving in.