Thriving in Place SLC: Summary of Phase One Report and Our Policy Recommendations

10 October, 2022

Thriving in Place SLC is a city-led initiative to examine gentrification and displacement in Salt Lake City. Project consultants, city staff, and University of Utah faculty and students have been analyzing displacement risks, residents’ experiences with gentrification and displacement, and residents’ ideas to address these issues. The results of these analyses are covered in the Phase One Summary Report

Here are the main takeaways from that report and our interpretation of what could be done to address the issues raised.

Finding 1: Salt Lake City is experiencing significant displacement, and this process has been worsening in recent years. Community members are highly concerned about displacement, and people have reported this concern throughout the city - on both the East and West sides.

Finding 2: All neighborhoods with relatively affordable housing have recently experienced displacement. That means that, if a household gets displaced from their neighborhood, there might not be other attainable places in the city where they will be able to relocate.

Finding 3: With its ongoing population growth, Salt Lake City has a severe housing shortage at every level, especially for lower-income families. Residents consider creating more affordable housing as an important objective, alongside protecting low-income renters from displacement.

Finding 4: Nearly 50% of renters in Salt Lake City are “rent burdened”, meaning that they spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Rent burden makes these households vulnerable to displacement if rents continue to increase.

Finding 5: Displacement affects people of all races and ethnicities, but it has disproportionate effects on people of color.

Finding 6: More than a third of respondents to the City’s survey reported that they want to buy a home but cannot afford it. This has at least two major consequences: (a) Moderate-income households cannot afford to buy a home and start building wealth. (b) These households are forced to remain in the rental market, which contributes to increased rental prices. 

Our takes: The above findings are extremely concerning and show the need for immediate action to both produce more housing and protect vulnerable residents. 

Specifically, a comprehensive set of policy actions is needed including some of the policies that the Salt Lake City Council is currently considering (October 2022):

  • Pass the RMF-30 reform to produce more attainable “missing-middle” housing that can provide homeownership opportunities.
  • Pass the off-street parking updates to remove barriers to the production of rental and for-sale housing.
  • Pass a version of the Affordable Housing Incentives to facilitate the production of market-rate and more affordable, deed-restricted housing units. Pair this policy with a “right to return” policy, which involves prioritizing displaced families to return to their neighborhood when such deed-restricted units become available.
  • Pass the Shared Housing Proposal to enable the production of micro-units, which have been found to provide affordable options for diverse groups of people (e.g., college students).
  • Pass the Accessory Dwelling Units proposed code changes to facilitate the production of affordable rental units, including in high-opportunity areas. Remove owner-occupancy requirements for the main units to further enhance the production of these units.
  • Update the Housing Loss Mitigation ordinance to reduce the impacts of displacement when existing units are demolished. The city has been considering changes to this ordinance for a few years, and recent indications are that a new proposed version of this policy will be released soon.
  • Invest in new deeply affordable subsidized housing units, throughout the city, especially taking advantage of publicly owned land to create new sites for such units.
  • Increase funding for housing vouchers for low-income families, especially targeting families who are at risk of displacement or have been recently displaced due to rent increases or evictions.