Homelessness is on the rise in Utah. Here are the people trying to change that
As Tony Milner, a board member of the Utah Housing Coalition, put it, the “overall goal for homelessness is that it’s rare, brief and non-recurring.”
In recent years that hasn’t been the case. According to the Homeless Services division of the Department of Workforce services, more than 13,000 people experienced homelessness in 2022 in Utah, a 10% increase from 2021. Milner, however, is hopeful that some of the affordable housing projects highlighted at the 25th annual Utah Housing Matters Awards can change that.
The Weber Housing Authority was named agency of the year. It is building a 48-plex in Ogden of affordable or, in some cases, free housing. In the past, executive director Andi Beadles said the solution would have been finding landlords willing to rent to people receiving support from the authority. But with increased competition for leases, that’s not the case anymore.
The new project will allow them to “weed out some of those barriers,” get people into their facility and “off the streets.”
Beaver Meadows, a 25-unit housing project in Beaver and Milford, Utah, received the Rural Project of the Year award. Every unit in Beaver Meadows is rented to those earning no more than 51% of the area median income for a household of four. This means the 2-, 3- and 4-bedroom units rent from $589 to $896 per month.
The project organizers say they’re hoping to address housing needs to help community members continue to work in the area and maintain important jobs like first responders, teachers and nurses.
Cinnamon Springs was also recognized for updating an existing housing project to be more sustainable. The Taylorsville affordable apartment complex replaced old gas furnaces and air conditioners, which is expected to save nearly $200,000 annually in utility costs and significantly decrease the building’s emissions.
Many of the projects centered around both environmental impact and longevity. This often means balancing significant budget limitations with the need for sustainable and durable materials. Architect Harold Woodruff thinks a lot about the people he’s designing for. The winner of the Jack Gallivan Legacy Award for his lifetime of contributions to affordable housing work said he tries to “design from the inside out.” To him, the needs and wants of the people who will be living in a building shape its makeup.
Woodruff said he worries about “where our society is going where fewer and fewer people can actually own housing.” Still, he said over the last 30 years homelessness and housing insecurity have “become more of a known problem.”
As a result, he finds hope in the many people across the state he’s seen getting involved to support and fund affordable housing.