Salt Lake City’s proposed Shared Housing Proposal (previously referred to as ‘Single Room Occupancy’ units, or SROs) would clarify policy regarding dorm-style apartments with shared kitchen and bathroom areas.
A literature review completed by Help USA indicates that SROs are an effective way to provide temporary housing for itinerant workers and those in transition towards permanent residence in Salt Lake City. SROs can offer an alternative to traditional homeless shelters for single adults and more costly studio or one bedroom apartments, many of which are often simply unaffordable to low-income earners.
We believe that Salt Lake City will benefit from the expansion of shared housing and we support the revision of local zoning ordinances in Salt Lake City to facilitate the expansion of shared housing throughout the city.
Salt Lake City’s need for more shared housing is part of the city’s larger need for affordable housing. As the state of Utah and Salt Lake City continue to grow rapidly, Salt Lake City must produce a diverse portfolio of housing options, especially those for our workforce. Shared housing is one promising option to provide new housing options. SROs occupy small spaces while providing housing for entire communities, and can include units with multiple beds, which are suitable to small families, as well as single-bed units, which are better-suited for individuals and couples. On-site property managers, who maintain the property twenty-four hours a day, ensure the safety and community integrity of these developments.
Research from the the U.S. Department of Housing and Human Development assessing shared housing expansion programs across multiple U.S. cities has found that shared housing universally helps to provide affordable housing and community-building in cities with high-housing demand. As the authors write, shared housing options “allow for flexibility in a housing stock and can allow individuals to live in more opportunity-laden locations, especially in times or areas where housing supply is more constrained.” The same research also found that the community-orientation of shared housing options “mitigate the substantial negative health effects that often accompany social isolation and loneliness”.
Shared housing is also an asset for itinerant workers, such as flight attendants, who require short term housing at low cost.
Moreover, residents of shared housing developments, who have fewer amenities at home, are encouraged to spend more money at local businesses, which helps stimulate the local economy anywhere that such developments are constructed.
At the moment, the largest impediment to expanding shared housing developments in Salt Lake City are zoning ordinances that prohibit where shared housing can be built. Shared housing units are only permitted to be built in a few very limited areas within the city, mostly near transit resources. The city council can take toward expanding shared housing by expanding the areas in which shared housing is permitted to be built.
Shared housing expansion will be most effective if included in a broader, more comprehensive policy strategy updating Salt Lake City’s zoning policies. This is because other zoning laws can also restrict the development of shared housing units: minimum parking requirements, for example, could prove an impediment to the expansion of shared housing [link to post on minimum parking requirements]. Additionally, expanding the area on which shared housing units can be developed will prove difficult without revisions to Salt Lake City’s RMF 30 zoning.
Shared housing expansion can provide an effective way to help Salt Lake City meet the challenges that the city’s ongoing economic and population growth continue to bring.
By approving the Shared Housing Proposal, with changes to require bathroom facilities in every unit, the Salt Lake City Council can address a critical piece of Salt Lake City’s housing needs by making it easier to build housing to support Salt Lake City’s diverse needs.
Victory! The Salt Lake City Council approved the Shared Housing Proposal at the October 18th meeting.
Slider image photo credit: Elizabeth Dooley NYTimes.com