Salt Lake City has invested $2 million into two housing projects in the city’s east and west sides.
One project will create 75 permanent supportive housing units for people who are transitioning out of homelessness. It is the first housing development of its kind in a decade, the city said.
The last permanent supportive housing development in the city was Palmer Court, which opened in 2009.
The second project is a 61-unit affordable housing apartment building for seniors. Both are expected to be completed within 12 to 18 months.
“Housing is the number one priority to gaining equity and opportunity, transit is the other one and we have transit opportunities coming online this year as well,” said Jackie Biskupski, the Salt Lake City mayor, during the groundbreaking ceremony on Friday for the apartment project by Centro Civíco Mexicano.
Centro Civíco Mexicano is the oldest Hispanic organization in Utah. It provides programming and a gathering space in west Salt Lake City for the Hispanic community. The organization has been working on getting started on the multi-use apartment building, Casa Milagros, for about six years, said Brandy Farmer, the group’s president and CEO.
The name Casa Milagros translates to “miracle house”, because Farmer said it was a miracle that they finally broke ground on the project after hitting many roadblocks over the years including contaminated soil and the rise of construction costs.
Centro Civíco Mexicano’s apartment building is estimated to cost between $25 to $35 million, Farmer said. It got funding for the project through grants and loans from various organizations including Salt Lake City. But senior housing is only the beginning, Farmer said. When fully completed, the building will also house an educational, cultural and sports center.
“We’ve needed a lot of improvement to this side of the city, so we are proud to be part of that,” Farmer said. “It’ll be something that Hispanic community will be proud of to give back to the entire community.”
A 2018 state report found that Utah has a shortage of nearly 28,000 affordable rental units and a deficit of about 46,000 available rental units for extremely low-income households.
Increasing affordable housing has been one of Biskupski’s top priorities as mayor, she said. During her 2019 State of the City address, she said the city helped start work on nearly 2,500 affordable units since 2016, but she said Salt Lake City can’t be the only community doing this work.
“All communities need to be embracing affordable housing and development to meet their own demands, otherwise it will just be a dog pile of people coming to Salt Lake City to live and we are trying to accommodate those who already live here,” Biskupski said.
On Friday, First Step House, a nonprofit substance abuse treatment center, also broke ground on its 75 units for people transitioning out of homelessness.
The estimated cost for that project is $20 million, said Melissa Jensen, the director of Salt Lake CIty’s housing and development department.