SLC Council continue discussion of affordable housing for homeless

SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake City's homeless issue was the topic of discussion once again at City Hall Tuesday.

City council members and the mayor say one of the best ways to address the problem is to stop people from becoming homeless to begin with. They believe they can do that by creating more affordable housing.

During the city council work session, council members discussed one of the fastest growing demographics, when it comes homelessness, are those low-income individuals, who have a job, but are still making less than $20,000 a year.

"Affordability really is hitting the working class some of the hardest, and as that becomes more difficult for them to find housing they get higher and higher risk of losing housing altogether," said Councilman Stan Penfold.

Jason Kinville already has one little girl and another child on the way. However, despite his best efforts he's going to be raising his kids in shelters.

"Fifty hours a week you know, just worked, worked, worked," Kinville said. "Come home and it's all gone."

Kinville said his landlord raised the rent and he could no longer afford it.

"People need to realize there are a lot of people who are homeless who have jobs and their jobs simply aren't paying enough to keep them in housing," said Mayor Jackie Biskupski.

The city estimates they need at least 7,500 new affordable housing units to accommodate these people.

"When we don't address affordability. We have people who are at high-risk of homelessness and what happens is they become homeless and they show up in our shelter system," Penfold said.

Tina Alvarez is living at the Road Home in Midvale with her four children.

"It's very sad because my kids go from having their own rooms, their own stuff, and now they are here with hundreds of people," Alvarez said.

Alvarez said the sight of people pushing shopping carts and sleeping on sidewalks is one side of the homeless epidemic, while her family is the other.

"You can't pay your bills, you can't pay your rent, your utilities, nothing," she said. "Affordable housing would benefit so many, hundreds of families."

In order to fund these housing projects the city is looking at a number of options like a tax levy on property owners or creating more incentives for developers such as waiving certain building fees.

"We simply weren't doing enough before and we have to step up our game and that's great," Biskupski said.