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Groups pledge $60M toward affordable housing in Utah

By Deborah Wilber - | Sep 9, 2022

BEN DORGER, Standard-Examiner file photo

In this Friday, July 27, 2018, photo, a new home takes shape on Monroe Boulevard in Ogden.

Affordable housing units for people of low to moderate income levels are coming to Utahns via a pair of funding infusions.

In the midst of a statewide housing shortage due to a surge in population growth, rising home prices and ever-increasing rental costs, the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation on Wednesday announced a $5 million contribution to the Utah Housing Preservation Fund.

Chair Gail Miller said the foundation is grateful for its partnership with UHPF and trusts the funds will be used to increase access to affordable housing for underserved Utahns.

UHPF Director of Operations and Finance Lukas Ridd said Utah has become a key target for out-of-state investors who purchase affordable properties, make renovations and increase rents dramatically.

“This reduces the amount of affordable housing and increases the demand for it simultaneously,” he said.

Image supplied, National Housing Preservation Database

According to the National Housing Preservation Database, 9% of publicly supported rental homes face an expiring affordability restriction in the next five years.

On Friday, the Utah Office of Homeless Services said in a news release that approval had been granted during a Utah Homelessness Council meeting for $55 million — previously allocated by the Utah Legislature this year — to be put toward “deeply affordable housing.” The release said the money will increase affordable housing units across the state by 1,078.

Four agencies in Weber County are set to benefit from the Homeless Services disbursement: Friends of Weber Housing Authority, $500,000; the Salvation Army, $2 million; Weber Housing Authority, $1.29 million; and West Haven real estate development company TWG, $1 million.

According to data from the National Housing Preservation Database, Utah has a 45,421-unit deficit of affordable and available rental homes for extremely low-income families, with 71% of such households spending more than half of their income on rent.

Looking forward to the expected housing advancements resulting from the UHPF program, Miller said in a press release that “Together we can and must build a community where all are welcomed, valued and treated with dignity.”

Whereas UHPF’s parent entity, the Utah Non-Profit Housing Corporation, creates new affordable housing, UHPF preserves existing affordable housing by acquiring aging properties, renovating them and stabilizing rents to keep residents from being displaced.

Properties purchased by UHPF are reportedly those already on the market to be sold or at high risk of it. Ridd claimed properties purchased by a for-profit entity will undoubtably raise rents, adding to housing instability.

As UHPF defines affordable housing to guidelines set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, its renovated properties are said to be affordable as well as safe and clean.

While the UHPF strives to have geographic diversity in its properties throughout the state, most of them are located in the greater Salt Lake City area, with one in Tooele and one in Park City.

Eventually, UHPF plans for more properties in less urbanized counties.

“People should not expect an increase in affordable housing units, but they can expect for Utah to have a higher supply of affordable housing units in the long term,” Ridd said.

With the Miller Family Foundation donation, UHPF estimates the preservation of roughly 100 affordable units across the state.

So far this year, UHPF has acquired four properties with a total of 254 units, according to the UHPF website.

UHPF operates largely on funds from the state, Community Reinvestment Act banks and investors such as the Miller Family Foundation.

“We so appreciate the generosity that the Miller family and the Larry H. Miller Company have shown toward the Housing Preservation Fund,” said Craig DeMordaunt, board chair at the Utah Non-Profit Housing Corporation.

In a similar act of philanthropy, Miller appeared at the Davis School District board meeting on Tuesday to announce a $1 million donation by the Miller Family Foundation and the Huntsman Foundation to aid in the construction of teen resource centers within the district serving at-risk students, including those who are homeless.

The centers allow students to shower, do laundry, study, eat and access important resources such as hygiene essentials while also providing opportunities to meet with counsellors and family service workers.


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