Utah lawmakers may fine cities that lack affordable housing

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah state lawmakers are considering options to push cities to create more zoning for multifamily homes to help alleviate the statewide problem of lack of affordable housing.

Charging fees to cities that don’t have enough affordable housing is among the ideas, The Salt Lake Tribune reported .

Some legislators believe those who can’t afford a home and other necessities become at risk for homelessness, increasing the burden on a network of nonprofit and public groups hoping to get people off the streets. But by all accounts, there is far more need than the safety net can handle.

So, lawmakers are hoping the state can nudge cities to either embrace more low-income housing or help pay for cities hosting a shelter.

Few cities across the state have affordable housing for someone making below or far below the median income, which is about $53,000 for a single person in the Salt Lake City metro area. “Affordable” is generally defined as housing that costs no more than 30 percent of a person’s income.

The entire state needs more than 38,000 additional units available to those earning 30 percent or less of the area’s median income.

Only four cities in Salt Lake County — Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake, West Valley City and Alta — have more low-income housing than the state average.

On average, 8.6 percent of all units in cities across Utah are considered affordable, according to the Association of Counties spreadsheet.

“We’ve got to do something to fund operation and maintenance,” said Lincoln Shurtz, a lobbyist for the Utah Association of Counties. “I think we’ve come to the conclusion that the fee will be collected from both cities and counties. The question is the way in which we collect the fee.”

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