City Council’s Position on Affordable Housing and Homelessness Issues

September 24, 2016
Contact: Dan Weist
Council Communications, 937-305-8891


City Council’s Position on Affordable Housing and Homelessness Issues:

  1. Council to Accelerate Affordable Housing Initiatives.
  2. Path is Clear for Mayor to Site New Homeless Facilities. 
  3. Council to Implement Ways to Mitigate Potential Neighborhood Impacts of New Facilities.
  4.  Rio Grande Area Crisis and Winter Shelter Needs Require Immediate Attention by Mayor and Council.


In light of rapid developments and sometimes conflicting statements over the past week, Salt Lake City Council Members today restated their joint positions on a variety of housing-related initiatives to help better the lives of our community’s most-vulnerable individuals and families.

Here is where Council Members stand on affordable housing and homelessness issues:

  1. Moving quickly to increase City’s supply of affordable housing.
    At its core, our community’s homelessness crisis is directly linked to a lack of affordable housing, particularly for people at the lower end of the income spectrum. These are the individuals and families most susceptible to being priced out of their homes and being forced into homelessness because they are unable to find replacement housing at a manageable cost. Council Members, together with the administrations of Mayor Biskupski and former Mayor Becker, have been working for several years to quantify the affordable housing deficit and develop strategies to reduce it.Increasing the City’s supply of affordable housing and preserving affordable housing that already exists is a Council Member priority. This issue will be the focus of the Council’s next work session, scheduled for October 4 at 2 p.m.Estimates are that Salt Lake City needs at least 7,500 housing units for people earning $20,000 a year or less, with significant deficits in the number of housing units available for those at higher income levels. What’s more, the gap between income levels and rental prices has widened over the past decade and is expected to continue on this trajectory, making housing even less affordable for many.Strategies being considered include identifying new, sustainable funding sources; enacting mandatory zoning requirements that a certain number of units in new rental buildings be affordable; providing mechanisms to preserve and improve the condition of existing affordable housing; coordinate resources from different City departments on this issue; and identifying financial and other incentives to attract more affordable housing.
  2. Selecting sites for new homeless resource centers.
    At their Tuesday meeting (September 20), Council Members appropriated $1.3 million for Mayor Biskupski and her Administration to place options on properties for at least two homeless resource centers. They also encouraged the Mayor to come back to the Council for additional funding if needed.While Mayor Biskupski has said she wants two new homeless centers with 250 beds each to meet a promise of replacing 500 beds of the existing shelter’s capacity, the Council has made clear on many occasions they prefer a larger number of centers, each with fewer beds to meet the 500-bed goal.However, Council Members recognize that buying and managing property is Mayor Biskupski’s legal responsibility, while the Council’s legislative authority involves appropriating funds for property purchases.

    The Council has encouraged Mayor Biskupski to select sites for new homeless resource centers by October 10 to allow time for sufficient public comment.

  3. Mitigating potential neighborhood impacts of new homeless centers.
    Throughout the site-selection process, Council Members have received, and continue to receive, significant public input that 250-bed facilities are too large to be accommodated elsewhere in the City without creating negative impacts.Council Members are very sensitive to these constituent concerns and do not want to see our communities’ high quality of life decline. So, realizing that facilities with fewer than 250 beds each don’t fit Mayor Biskupski’s plan, Council members have asked the Mayor to provide them with a written plan by November 1 for how potential neighborhood impacts from these large centers will be addressed.Depending on the mitigation strategies proposed by Mayor Biskupski, Council Members have indicated they are ready to move forward with zoning conditions to limit potential neighborhood impacts. Similar conditions are often placed on other commercial buildings located in neighborhood settings, and may include requirements to keep the area free of trash, limit noise after certain hours, and restrict outside queuing of patrons.
  4. Addressing immediate needs in Rio Grande area and providing winter shelter.
    A drive through the Rio Grande/500 West area shows anyone that Salt Lake City faces major issues with people camping on the public right-of-way, with open drug-dealing and drug use, and with generally lawless behavior that endangers police and emergency personnel, as well as the public.In good weather, many homeless people choose to spend the night outdoors rather than seek shelter in the overcrowded facilities on Rio Grande Street. With winter fast approaching, the City, Salt Lake County and nonprofit service providers must come together quickly to determine how the emergency winter shelter situation will be addressed. This must go hand-in-hand with a sustainable plan from the same agencies to reduce violence and unrest.Over the past three years, Council Members have provided $3.8 million to help address issues related to homelessness in the Rio Grande area and they realize that additional funding will be required. They have requested Mayor Biskupski to outline her plan for improving the situation, together with any financial requests, by October 25.

Visit the City Council’s website at for more information.

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