Report: Utah senior citizens at risk of losing affordable housing

Kier Construction continues work on Central Station, a development by Gardner Batt, at 549 W. 200 South in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. The 65-unit affordable apartment community will have studio, one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments.

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's seniors lose hundreds of affordable housing units every year, especially as the market for rental housing grows more expensive. Without changes in policy, a report claims the risk of senior homelessness will increase in Utah.

The Preserving Affordable Senior Housing Matters report finds Utah stands to lose hundreds of subsidized housing units each year as leases expire and units are converted to market-rate rentals.

Utah Housing Coalition Fellow Otelo Reggy-Beane is the author of the report. He said the creation of new subsidized housing units is not keeping up with demand.

"We're adding about 182 units each year to the subsidized senior housing stock. We find that 120 of these units are just replacing the ones lost to subsidy expiration," Reggy-Beane said in a news media briefing on the report.

Seniors who depend on Social Security as their only income source struggle more with affordable housing. Many can afford no more than $235 per month to stay within the guidelines of 30% of income toward housing. Yet rent for the least-expensive studio apartments is at least twice that.

Recommended strategies

The report recommends four strategies to preserve the stock of affordable housing for seniors.

  • Incorporating senior housing preservation in moderate-income housing plans.
  • Establishing a dedicated funding source to preserve senior housing.
  • Adopting age-friendly zoning codes and taking advantage of a new state law that makes it easier to create auxiliary housing units, so-called "mother-in-law apartments" in residential zones.
  • Requiring one year's notice when a landlord intends to convert subsidized units to market rate.

Other strategies could include increasing the housing available to seniors; one way to do that would be to require new apartment developments to include some affordable housing units.

Utah Housing Coalition Director Tara Rollins wants to see that happen.

"It's easily obtainable," she said. "If you're doing a hundred, you could probably do two units that would be 30 percent of AMI (area median income) or lower, and that's exactly what we need."

Alan Ormsby, the Utah state director of AARP, hopes the need to protect housing for seniors doesn't get lost in the hot housing market.

"The biggest risk, I think, is that the market is moving in such an aggressive way that some of these projects might get missed unless we're really conscientious in thinking about it," Ormsby told KSL NewsRadio.

The report includes an interactive map detailing where affordable housing for seniors is concentrated in Utah along with other factors that can affect quality of life.

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Dan Bammes


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