SLC residents rally for housing solutions

SALT LAKE CITY — As city leaders consider a plan to rezone certain neighborhoods to allow affordable, single room occupancy housing units, some activists are concerned it doesn’t go far enough.

They protested before Tuesday’s city council meeting.

“We are here to highlight the struggle so many Salt Lake City residents have gone through,” said Cristobal Villegas, the organizer of the protest.  

SRO apartments are much like dormitories and allow for single or double occupancy living spaces.  Bathrooms and kitchens are often communal facilities.

Currently, the only SRO facility in Salt Lake City is the Rio Grande Hotel.  

“We feel like we set the example of how they can operate,” said Brent Willis, the operator of the facility.

Villegas believes the plan is a step in the right direction, but he wishes it included more areas of the city.

“It is not enough,” Villegas said.  “It needs to be more broad. The city in a historical lens, has been allowing folks to build wealth on one part of town and on the other part of town, not build wealth.”

Other advocates for the homeless are guarded about the proposal and are looking for more results before a large investment is made.

“What I am afraid of is these units are going to look like an answer to a problem and there is not enough information,” said Bernie Hart.  “If they don’t work, shut them down because you are not helping anybody.”

The council listened to dozens of people share their impassioned thoughts and vow to fight for those who struggle to find adequate shelter.  

“We are just a group of people who want to do better,” Villegas said.  “We are going to turn up the heat.”

Council members could vote on the proposal at their meeting on May 7.

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