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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County made a big move Friday to preserve and improve nearly 300 affordable housing units for seniors.
Not only will those apartments remain affordable for qualifying seniors, but they will also be renovated.
"Our agency really believes that affordable housing is an asset to the community," said Janice Kimball, CEO of Housing Connect, which is the county housing authority.
They broke ground today to unify and modernize two public housing buildings, County High Rise and New City Plaza, which are 50 years old.
They are located east of the Salt Lake County Government building.
This rehabilitation of the apartments means a lot to the residents. Their average annual income is $13,000. They now have few good options on the open housing market.
"Right now, affordable housing is at a crisis," Kimball said. "We simply don't have enough affordable housing at all in Salt Lake and we can't afford to lose any."
Each apartment will be renovated with a new layout, cabinets, appliances, carpet, paint and wiring for broadband internet.
The construction, which starts Tuesday, will modernize 299 units, and add a one-story building to connect the two buildings.
Crews will also update the common areas, the plumbing, and the elevators.
"It's been hard, my gosh, incredible," said James Navejar, who was homeless for 20 years before moving into New City Plaza seven years ago.
He was emotional when he talked about having a home, and neighbors who care about him.
"I can't say how grateful I am. Very grateful. Extremely grateful, and this is a miracle of a step," Navejar said.
The $76 million project is federally and state-funded.
Nearly $150,000 will go into remodeling each unit.
"We're creating a beautiful place for people who need affordable housing to live," said Erin Litvack, deputy mayor of Salt Lake County and Housing Connect commissioner. "Pride in your house and pride in where you are, and being a functioning member of our community in a safe, affordable unit is something that we are always striving for."
This project ensures that these housing units remain affordable for the foreseeable future.