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Report: Utah wages not keeping up with price of rent

By Richard Piatt | Posted - Apr. 21, 2010 at 5:06 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- A new report shows wages aren't keeping up with the cost of rent for many people.

It's called the Out of Reach report, and it shows that a lot of people are struggling -- paying more than they can afford for a place to live.

Not all apartments in downtown Salt Lake City cater to low-income families, and the report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition says that's the problem.

The bottom line, for many: rent is too high; wages are too low. That's forcing more people than ever into at least temporary homelessness.

"Over the past two years, we've doubled the number of families coming to our shelters in need," says Michelle Flynn, with the Road Home homeless shelter.

Many homeless families need a temporary assistance to get back on their feet, but programs to fund things like rental deposits are short on cash these days.

Even then, the study shows it's tough on people. Someone who makes $20,000 a year can only afford $505 a month in rent. Average fair market value for a two bedroom apartment in Utah is $768 a month, according to the study.

That forces people out of the "safety zone" of using 30 percent of income to housing.

"If you're paying more than 30 percent, you're setting yourself up for some disaster in the future -- whether it's your car breaking down, a medical bill. You're most likely to get behind on your rent," says Tara Rollins, with the Utah Housing Coalition.

The study calls this an "unbridgeable gap." The mean low-income wage is $11.55 an hour. The study says people have to make at least $14.77 an hour to afford housing comfortably.

It's not as simple as greedy landlords, either. Higher taxes and fees, like Salt Lake County's Unified Police fee, hurt those who provide affordable housing.

"Something like this, out of the blue, makes it extremely difficult to do business," says Tom Wood, with the Utah Apartment Association.

In each of those areas -- fees, wages and rental rates -- advocates are working with the state, cities and counties. But change is difficult, since these are tough times at that level too.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

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