Salt Lake City Considers Controversial Proposal To Build Affordable Housing

Apr 23, 2019, 10:50 PM | Updated: 10:53 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Dozens of protesters called on Salt Lake City leaders to find solutions for affordable housing on Tuesday, as council members considered an ordinance that would allow more single-room housing units to be built in the city.

Only one such building exists right now in the city – and that’s the Rio Grande Hotel.

“It worked out for me,” said Kevin Nelson, a tenant at the hotel. “God opened the door for me.”

He lives in a small room on the first floor that’s just big enough for his bed, a small fridge, a microwave, closet and his bike. He shares bathrooms, showers and a large kitchen with several other tenants on the floor.

“With the economy and everything that’s going up. The cost of living has gone up. This is, this is perfect,” Nelson said. “A step up for me from being homeless.”

It was just the right amount of space and affordability to help get him off the streets.

And it’s just that sort of single-room occupancy housing (SROs) that brought dozens of passionate demonstrators to the Salt Lake City building on Tuesday.

“Housing is a human right,” the group chanted ahead of the city council meeting.

Then the group of a few dozen filed into the city council chambers and added their voices to an ordinance that would allow more single-room occupancy units in more areas of the city.

The proposal received mixed reaction during the meeting. Some hoped the affordable units would help fight homelessness.

Some worried about them bringing violence to the proposed areas.

“We cannot solve the problems with the crime-magnet hotels. You shouldn’t even be talking about SROs,” one man said.”

Others said more needs to be done to solve unaffordable housing.

“It’s a step in the right direction. It is not enough. So I ask you, what’s the plan?”

“I can’t be opposed to it because it’s better than the road home,” Bernie Hart said, adding, “but I don’t know how much better.”

Hart suggests opening up only a couple of buildings with the units and then gathering data to determine whether they are successful in helping the homeless get back on their feet. Otherwise, he says, they’ll be just like another homeless shelter.

The units would be as small as 100-square feet and would include shared amenities like bathrooms and kitchens. The proposed ordinance change would allow the single-room occupancy units to be built in parts of Sugar House, the Liberty Wells district, neighborhoods west of the capitol, Rose Park and Glendale.

For now, the Rio Grande Hotel is the only building with the units. And at least one tenant hopes that type of housing doesn’t end here.

“I give thumbs up to it,” Nelson said. “Double thumbs up.”

The cost of the rooms would vary depending on size. Nelson said he pays $350 per month for his room. He also has the option of paying $96 per week.

The city council could vote on the proposed ordinance as early as May 7th.

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Salt Lake City Considers Controversial Proposal To Build Affordable Housing