Can you afford to live in SSL?May 05, 2021 09:15AM ● By Bill Hardesty
Work continues on a multi-family building. One of a variety of options for SSL residents. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)
By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]
Affordable housing is a perpetual campaign issue, but what does it mean, and how is the City of South Salt Lake stacking up?
Affordable housing and low-income housing are not synonymous. While low-income housing is part of affordable housing, affordable housing means much more.
“Affordable housing is housing that is deemed affordable to those with the median household income or below. Affordability measures are based on the idea that households should spend 30% or less of their overall income on housing,” said Alex White, South Salt Lake Community Development Director.
For example, Family A’s household income is $45,000. They could spend $13,500 per year on housing which figures out to be $1,125 a month. Family B’s household income is $90,000. They could spend $63,000 a year, which is a $2,250 monthly payment.
“When housing costs are higher than 30% of the household’s income, housing is no longer affordable,” White said.
When this occurs, families need to spend more on housing, sacrificing other critical costs such as food, clothing, utilities, schooling and internet service.
Another potential problem when there is a lack of affordable housing is families begin to widen their search for housing they can afford. Most often, they find it away from their employment. While their housing costs are more reasonable, transportation costs increase. White points out the third problem.
“Studies show that the availability of affordable housing is directly related to a resident’s health, access to education, and employment opportunities,” he said. “It is important for cities to provide a mix of housing options to provide families opportunities to find affordable housing.”
South Salt Lake City
“Housing affordability has become a critical topic in South Salt Lake,” said SSL Mayor Cherie Wood said. “As real estate and land prices have driven up the cost of housing in Salt Lake County, the overall increase in resident income has not grown at the same rate. Our city historically has had many affordable housing options. Today, finding housing costs at or below 30% of overall household income has become extremely difficult for our residents.”
According to Zillow.com, the average home value in SSL is $366,637, a 16.2% increase over last year. If homebuyers put 20% down ($73,327) and obtain a 30-year mortgage, the monthly payments are estimated at $1,655. A family’s household income would have to be at least $65,000 to pay for the house.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the median income in SSL for 2019 was $47,813. Applying the 30% cap of $1,195 means that for half of the households in SSL, buying a home in SSL would be difficult.
Another issue with the purchase of housing is the down payment. Many first-time homebuyers don’t have $73,327 sitting in the bank. Lower down payments increase the cost of the monthly payments. They are priced out of the market.
On the rent side, the picture looks similar. According to Zumper.com, the average cost for a one-bedroom apartment in SSL is $900 per month. This is a 6% increase from last year. Studio apartments decreased by 35% from last year to $650. However, a two-bedroom apartment increased by 22% over the previous year to $1,299, which is about $100 above what a median family should spend on housing.
In a general plan update in March, housing was discussed. A chart of current affordability was presented. The information shows there were 5,264 units available below the median income level. However, there are 6,108 households below the median income level competing for those 5,264 units. The law of supply and demand shows when supply is low and demand is high, costs increase—resulting in more households getting priced out.
The chart also shows 433 units with an affordable rent of up to $359, with household income ranging from $0 to $14,343. However, there are 2,004 households needing housing in this range.
For monthly housing costs of $300-$499, 1,527 households are competing for 919 units. But for families with monthly housing costs from $500-$999, the coin flips. There are 3,912 units for 2,577 households. For this range, the monthly rent is $598-$956, with incomes ranging from $23,907 to $38,250.
At the median housing cost level of $1,000-$1,499, there is an oversupply, with 3,282 units for 764 households.
What’s being done?
“South Salt Lake is home to residents from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, including youth and families living near or below the poverty line, and those experiencing homelessness. The COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on our most vulnerable communities have thrown the ever-present issue of housing affordability and stability into even sharper relief,” said Bonnie Owens, Promise SSL deputy director. “As a result, the Promise Equity Council identified housing stability as a key area of focus for the 2020-21 school year. The Equity Council articulated our housing vision with the statement, ‘Residents have safe, stable, and affordable housing.’”
“The city has a Good Landlord Program, offers new development tax credits, helps revitalize neighborhoods with our Community Connection Program, and connects with homeless resources to shelter all our residents,” Wood said.
The Good Landlord Program provides a significant reduction of rental licenses for landlords certified through the program. The program is “intended to educate landlords on management strategies to prevent crime, maintain equity, and promote compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods.” (SSLC.com). Contact SSL Community Development for further information.
Wood explained the Community Development Department uses municipal code to provide a variety of housing throughout the city. These options include single-family homes, townhomes and apartments. Currently, the Community Development Department is updating townhome requirements with a plan to have the new ordinance passed in May.
“Having a variety of housing types and sizes allows families in our community the ability to find housing options that address different family and budget needs within the community,” Wood said.
She also mentioned “the general plan update that is in process will include an updated Moderate Income Housing Plan that will provide additional strategies for maintaining and establishing new affordable housing within the city.”