Unaffordable Utah: Rental, housing prices forcing families into homelessness

Sep 9, 2021, 11:20 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — As home and rent prices go up in Utah, there is an increasing number of families that are unable to find affordable housing.

“It’s broken me in more ways than one,” Ashlee Dominguez told KSL TV’s Debbie Worthen after being forced to move her family in with her brother in California. “As a mom, I feel like a failure. I really do.”

Five months ago, she and her husband signed a new lease. It was for a three-bedroom, two-bath apartment. Rent was just over $1,600 a month. When they moved in, they found black mold. Their landlord told them they could break their lease, but they didn’t get any refunds.

“Altogether it was probably $3,300,” Dominguez said.

That hit to their finances left them without money to put down on a new place — that is if they could even find one. It’s a growing problem in the state. And, according to Utah Housing Coalition advocate Francisca Blanc, the family is far from alone. “The rent prices that we have been seeing are between $300 and $500 a month, which is a significant amount of money for anyone,” Blanc said.

And, according to a housing report with numbers from 2020, over 183,000 families are paying more than 50% of their income on rent – in many cases, significantly more than 50%. The median price of an apartment in 2020 in Salt Lake County was just over $1,100 a month.

And based on a family of five, with two working parents and three children in day care, according to the Utah Living Wage Index, a family would need to make just under $85,000 a year before taxes to be able to afford other necessities like food, health care and transportation.

“It sucks because everything is so unaffordable,” Dominguez said.

Blanc said it will take a big, combined effort to solve the problem.

“We all have to come together because we need to make sure people are staying housed,” Blanc said.

For Dominguez and her family, she hopes they can get back on their feet again soon.

“It’s hard when our children tell you they want to go home, and you don’t have a home to take them to,” she said.

Blanc said there are resources available to help with rent at rentrelief.utah.gov.

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Unaffordable Utah: Rental, housing prices forcing families into homelessness