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Priced Out: Rentals? Too few, too expensive to be affordable

Apr 15, 2021, 5:00 AM | Updated: 6:36 am
Kate and Ash Anderson with their children need affordable rentals...
Kate and Ash Anderson with their children (courtesy photo)
(courtesy photo)

Editorial note: This is part four of a series on affordable housing, called “Priced Out.” You can see the other parts of our coverage here

Buying a home is becoming increasingly difficult in Utah as prices for homes soar. But everybody still needs a place to live, and renters have to deal with the same market forces pushing up the cost of homes and apartments.

Part 4 of KSL NewsRadio’s series Priced Out examines the availability of affordable rentals in Utah.

Kate and Ash Anderson have been living in a modest three-bedroom home in Murray for the last six years, paying $1450 a month. A couple of weeks ago, their landlord gave them 30 days notice to move out – he wants to take advantage of the hot market for home sales. So far, Kate says they haven’t found anything for less than $2000 a month. Her husband’s an electrician.

“So we’re not talking about minimum wage workers here,” Kate Anderson told KSL NewsRadio. “We’re talking about a middle-class wage. And if we’re struggling, I can’t even imagine how someone who makes minimum wage can even afford to live anywhere.”

Where are all the affordable rentals?

James Wood with the Gardner Institute at the University of Utah says there just aren’t many affordable rentals available.

“We’ve had nine years now in Salt Lake County where the vacancy rate has been below four percent,” Wood said.

The Utah Apartment Association’s Paul Smith estimates a shortage of about 50,000 rental housing units on the Wasatch Front.

“Unfortunately, we’re just not building enough supply to keep up with our population growth and the in-migration of renters and homeowners from other states,” Smith said.  

Help for renters

Programs exist to help low-income renters, especially those affected by the COVID pandemic. You can see those at rentrelief.utah.gov.  But most plans to address affordable housing focus on increasing the supply.

Tara Rollins with the Utah Housing Coalition says one potential answer has been setting aside affordable rentals in new developments.

“Think about all the units that we have that are going up in this county here. And say there was only five in every single one of those developments that were affordable . . .  That would put a huge amount of housing stock,” Rollins said.

The Utah legislature also passed a bill (HB 82) in its last session to make it easier to create auxiliary dwelling units – so-called mother-in-law apartments — to help ease the shortage of affordable rental housing.

What other solutions are out there? Tomorrow we’ll continue our series Priced Out: Finding an affordable home in Utah

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Priced Out: Rentals? Too few, too expensive to be affordable