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Proposed Bill Eyes Remedies For Affordable Housing Crunch

Bart Everson, CC by 2.0

A proposed bill could give the state more tools to address the critical lack of affordable housing in Utah.“We know that for families to be economically sustainable, they need to spend no more than 30 percent of their annual income on housing,” says state Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake.

Edwards is sponsoring new legislation aimed at tackling the growing affordable housing crisis. She says unfortunately, for residents earning between $25,000 and $30,000 a year, 80 percent are spending more than a third of their income on housing.

“Wages have not grown with the same speed with which our housing prices have and that’s created a real lack of availability, and that’s what we’re trying to address here,” she says.

Edwards co-chairs the Economic Development and Work Services Interim Committee, which reviewed amendments to the draft bill on Wednesday.

The bill expands existing programs and boosts state tax credits for low-income housing developments. It also would create a million-dollar investment fund to entice hesitant landlords to rent to lower-income tenants.

Jonathan Hardy is director of the Utah Division of Housing and Community Development.

“Typically a lot of our low-income population may have barriers that they face when trying to overcome that screening criteria, whether it’s credit history, rental history, eviction history — criminal background if that exists,” he says.

“So what we’re trying to do is put an incentive program in place that helps bridge people that have an existing housing voucher with a landlord.”

During public comment, representatives from the local homebuilders’, realtors’ and apartment associations spoke in support of the bill.  

The committee voted unanimously to approve amendments to the draft legislation, which could be taken up by the House early next year.

[Link to the draft bill here.]

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