Salt Lake City approves housing plan; Biskupski takes first step to implement it

A policy to guide housing development for next five years get its start

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and other city officials raise a sparkling cider toast Tuesday night, Dec. 12, 2017, after the City Council approved a comprehensive city housing plan that will guide policy for the next five years.

Housing in Salt Lake City could become cheaper and more plentiful over the next five years if the city can meet the goals of a new comprehensive housing plan adopted unanimously Tuesday by the City Council.

Moments after the vote, Mayor Jackie Biskupski took the first official action to advance the city’s new affordable housing program, instructing city officials to write rules to require that sellable surplus city land be evaluated for housing development. It was the first of eight or more executive memos on housing that the mayor is expected to issue.

“It has been almost two decades since the city had a housing plan,” the mayor said as she and other administration officials toasted the council’s vote with sparkling cider. “We have many goals. We are ready to roll.”

The plan’s adoption comes a week after the council authorized $17.6 million to subsidize affordable-housing construction, which could support development of more than 700 homes for people and families who earn below the area’s median income. Despite that infusion, the timeline for seeing the plan’s housing has changed, the mayor said.

Mayor Jackie Biskupski signs an executive memo on housing policy Tuesdat night, Dec. 12, 2017, moments after the City Council approved a new comprehensive housing policy for the city to guide development over the next five years.

“I think we have missed some opportunities around that,” she said. “What I will say, though, is, by June of 2019, we’ll have 500-700 units that will be completed.”

The “Growing SLC” housing plan is a nearly 200-page document developed by the city office of Housing and Neighborhood Development. Issued in February and tweaked throughout the year, it is intended to guide city housing policy for the next five-10 years, emphasizing affordability, opportunity and equality for residents at all income levels. It starts from the premise that the city is facing an incipient housing crisis.

Among its broad goals are updating a zoning code that got its last rewrite in the 1990s, at a time when the city’s population was declining. With Salt Lake City now booming — it’s had about 4 percent population growth since the 2010 census — zoning changes would permit increased density and different types of housing, from accessory dwellings to cottages, row houses and small apartment buildings.

The plan emphasizes preserving long-term affordable housing, stabilizing low-income tenants, partnering to create new housing and identifying new sources of funding — all under the umbrella of fair and equitable housing. It also considers mandating that affordable housing be part of any new residential development, a practice known as inclusionary zoning.

“We don’t think there’s one solution,” said Melissa Jansen, the city’s director of housing and neighborhood development. “It is going to take multiple things to attack this, and we set up a very short time frame.”

“It is a framework that mostly is about policy and some of the direction we would like to see happen, but there will be a lot of work-around implementation,” said Council Chairman Stan Penfold, who is leaving office at the end of the year. “There’s still a lot of work to do.”

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