A $35 million affordable housing bill passed a state Senate committee Tuesday, with two Democrats voting for it and one Republican voting against it.
The four other Republican members of the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee were absent during the vote.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, would put $15 million toward the construction of private affordable housing, $15 million toward rental assistance and $5 million toward the preservation of affordable housing.
Legislative leaders have said it may be difficult to fund expensive bills like this now that a tax reform law, which would have put more money into the general fund, has been repealed.
Anderegg acknowledged the bill requests a lot of money, but argued it’s more cost effective to keep people in their homes than to pay for homeless services if they can’t afford housing.
“You can spend a couple hundred dollars in rental assistance to keep that family in their home,” Anderegg said, calling this the conservative argument for the bill. “Otherwise the other option is they become homeless. This is an ounce of prevention [that] helps us avoid 10 pounds of intervention.”
Anderegg added that there are parts of his bill that are more progressive than policies he usually promotes, but as co-chair of Utah’s Commission on Housing Affordability, which helped create this bill, he felt he should push it.
“It costs money to house people,” said Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, who voted for the bill. “But if we don’t house people, what are we going to do? They’re on the streets. We have kids that go from school to school to school. It’s a social issue.”
However, Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, argued a better way to deal with housing affordability is to change local zoning laws to incentivize private housing development.
“Instead what we want to do is take money from someone over there and give it to someone over here,” McCay, who voted against the bill, said. “That doesn’t sit well with me.”
Anderegg said zoning does need to be addressed, but in a different bill.
Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson