The Utah Housing Coalition, an NLIHC state partner, has launched a new strategy to more effectively engage elected officials at all levels of government. The Coalition recently shifted from hosting its monthly membership meetings in Salt Lake City to facilitating quarterly educational tours around the state. Through these tours, the Utah Housing Coalition aims to grow state leaders’ understanding about the importance federal funding plays in state and local issues – specifically, the positive impact such funding has on ensuring greater housing affordability and addressing homelessness in Utah.
Two additional site visits were recently held in Utah County, an area also known as “Silicon Slopes” due to its rapidly growing population causing housing prices to rise dramatically (as occurred in Silicon Valley in California). New homes are being built, but they tend to serve higher-income people moving into the area, pricing out existing community members. Utah County does not have a housing plan to ensure more equitable development takes place, but State Senator Jake Anderegg (R) who represents the area is partnering with Utah Housing Coalition to identify solutions.The Utah Housing Coalition kicked off the tours in May with a daylong event in Grand County with local residents, Coalition members, and legislators. The day began with a service project helping to mud a straw-built home with Community Rebuilds, a program funded by the USDA. The afternoon was spent discussing federal and state programs and the barriers and solutions of building homes people can afford in rural and tourist areas of Utah.
To showcase innovative approaches, the site visits featured properties developed with creative designs and financing that promote affordability. The developers led the tours to discuss why and how the projects were designed the way they were. The first tour focused on a mixed-income strategy to serve extremely low-income households as well as company executives. The second discussed how the deal was put together, what partnerships were made, and how other factors like the Community Reinvestment Act and tax reform played in making the development happen.
The Utah Housing Coalition sees this new meeting strategy as a way both to make their membership meetings more effective and informative and to cultivate relationships with state and federal officials. Utah Housing Coalition Executive Director Tara Rollins says the bottom line is to have elected officials see the impact of federal funds in their own communities as a way to protect and expand affordable housing resources in Utah.