Biskupski, homeless supporters gather for opening of new affordable housing project

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SALT LAKE CITY — Advocates for the homeless and low-income residents marked the opening of a new affordable housing project Tuesday morning in Salt Lake City.

Mayor Jackie Biskupski surrounded herself with the collaborators of Salt Lake City's 9th East Lofts at Bennion Plaza as she cut the ribbon and opened the doors to 68 new apartments.

"This is a dream come true for people in this audience," Biskupski said.

The goal of the project at 444 S. 900 East, Biskupski said, is to help the homeless transition into affordable homes and to accommodate families of mixed incomes.

She closed her remarks by presenting a housewarming gift to the first resident of the new building, James Gum, who was formerly homeless.

With rents ranging from $300 to $760 a month, the planners for the Lofts at Bennion Plaza hoped to keep prices for 54 of the apartments below 60 percent of the median income for the area.

"This is a good model of what we are talking about for mixed-use housing, affordable housing," said Palmer Depaulis, of the Housing Authority of Salt Lake.

The agency worked with the Utah Housing Corporation and local Housing and Urban Development offices, among others, to prepare the apartments and obtain the tax credits to support the building and the low rent.

The project, described by many supporters as a collaborative effort between public and private interests, also aimed to provide 22 apartments accommodating people with physical disabilities, victims of domestic violence and returned veterans.

"The team came together to say, ‘How can we best meet the needs of this population,’” said Pamela Atkinson, an advocate for the homeless and a supporter of the housing project.

Atkinson called the apartments "warm" and "welcoming" and described the site as a source of hope for the homeless.

Atkinson said the opening of the Lofts at Bennion Plaza represented one effort of many to provide more affordable housing to the homeless.

"This is just the beginning, because there is going to be a lot more housing like this," she said.


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