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Salt Lake City pumps brakes on mother-in-law apartments, OKs $17.6M plan for affordable housing

Salt Lake City pumps brakes on mother-in-law apartments, OKs $17.6M plan for affordable housing

(Worachate Joe Khongthon, Shutterstock)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Amid its efforts to increase affordable housing options, the Salt Lake City Council approved a plan to set aside $17.6 million for affordable housing Tuesday — but it also pumped the brakes on an ordinance to allow mother-in-law apartments.

While there appeared to be enough support on the Salt Lake City Council last week to adopt an ordinance to allow accessory dwelling units — also known as mother-in-law apartments — the council took a step back Tuesday, delaying the issue until spring.

As one piece of its aim to increase affordable housing options, the council has spent months grappling with the accessory dwelling unit ordinance, hearing fears from residents that they would cause issues in single-family neighborhoods along the way.

The council last week was on the brink of passing a law that would allow accessory dwelling units citywide except in east-side areas like the Avenues or the east bench.

The east-side exemption caused Councilmembers Erin Mendenhall and James Rogers heartburn, but they were outnumbered. In a series of straw polls last week, other council members supported Councilman Derek Kitchen's proposed compromise that exempted certain areas.

But Tuesday, City Council Chairman Stan Penfold proposed sending the issue back to the planning commission to perhaps draft a new ordinance — one that might allow accessory dwelling units through a conditional use permit.

Kitchen said he was "warm" to Penfold's proposal, though he noted Tuesday marked the seventh briefing on the issue.

"Seven. Can you believe that?" he said. "I think we have really tried to come to consensus on this really complicated topic because we know it's an important piece of our housing decisions — it's an important piece but it's not the only one — and I am concerned that we have created this big, clunky policy proposal that is just going to make things more challenging."

Kitchen expressed support for the proposal but added: "I don't want to delay this any longer than necessary because we have bigger housing fish to fry."

Penfold asked city planning staff to return back to the council with a new recommendation in April or March.

"I feel relief," said Mendenhall, who worried that an ordinance that excluded east-side areas would be inconsistent with the council's aim to address affordable housing issues citywide.

"The harder we’ve worked this piece of clay I think the farther the seven of us have gotten on where we wish it would be and wish it would address," Mendenhall said. "To take the clay analogy too far, it feels like we need less clay, that we've been working this thing into a huge mass. I'm grateful (staff) has the capacity to take it back and hopefully clean it up."

The council did, however, take big action on funding affordable housing funding.

Acting as the Redevelopment Agency Board, council members approved a $17.6 million plan to support and subsidize affordable housing construction, making $10 million available in a fund for developers and community groups.

"This was really big," said City Councilwoman Lisa Adams, chairwoman of the Redevelopment Agency Board. "We did something that's going to actually bring things out of the ground and make a difference in terms of housing units in the city."

The council also directed $3 million to the city's Housing Trust Fund to be used to incentivize owners to improve existing affordable housing, $1.4 million to finance the Barnes Bank development for a 196-unit affordable housing project out of 412 total units, and $3.2 million to redevelop the Capitol Motel site at 1749 S. State for a project of 150 units total, with 60 affordable.

“I am thrilled we are moving forward on funding innovative initiatives to address the affordable housing crisis in Salt Lake City, which align with our proposed housing plan, Growing SLC,” Mayor Jackie Biskupski said in a statement after the council's action.

“Today’s move demonstrates that both the City Council and I are in agreement that now is the time to aggressively move to bring units online quickly. This is the product of almost a year of hard work, dialogue and collaboration to find a workable solution," Biskupksi said.

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Katie McKellar


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