Utah Gains $10 Million for Affordable Housing in Tough Budget Environment

Utah Senate Bill 39 (SB39) cleared its final legislative hurdle on March 10 when the Utah House of Representatives approved a one-time allocation of $10 million for affordable housing programs. The new money is expected to leverage tens of millions of additional dollars and will be used to create and preserve affordable rental homes across the state. SB39 now goes to Governor Gary Herbert’s desk. The governor included $20 million for affordable homes in his budget request and is expected to approve this measure.

Although SB39 sponsors originally sought $35 million, many stakeholders agree the smaller number is still significant. A similar bill passed in last year’s session was completely stripped of funding, and failed tax reform efforts led to a challenging budget year. Many state legislators resisted funding affordable rental housing, and even more were concerned with the $35 million price tag.

The bill’s original sponsor Senator Jake Anderegg (R-Lehi) led the effort to build support for SB39 with the help of Representative Val Potter (R-North Logan) who sponsored a version in the House. Various advocates and stakeholders, including NLIHC state partner the Utah Housing Coalition, helped get the bill across the finish line by making the case that the state’s recent investments toward homelessness resource centers were in vain without also including new funding for affordable rental homes.

The $10 million in new funding will go to the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund that provides low-interest loans for development projects that include affordable homes for low- to moderate-income households. If approved by the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund’s board, $1 million will be devoted to a new Utah Housing Preservation Fund. This preservation fund will be launched by the Utah Nonprofit Housing Corporation in partnership with some of Utah’s biggest businesses. Ivory Foundation, Intermountain Healthcare, and Zions Bank announced they will commit $20 million for an initial phase of funding to preserve 100 homes. These funders predict that they can grow public and private partnerships to leverage the fund to $100 million to preserve up to 800 affordable rental homes.

The Utah Housing Preservation Fund will be managed by the Utah Nonprofit Housing Corporation. Its first contract will acquire 54 deeply affordable homes from Housing Connect, the public housing authority in Salt Lake County, to keep them affordable to households with incomes at or below 30% of the area median income. Housing Connect is expected to reinvest the proceeds of this deal to generate at least 100 additional rental homes affordable to extremely low-income households.

“This bill would have never reached the finish line if it was not for the incredible broad group of supporters at the table working on this. Leaders in our community stepped up like they have never stepped up before,” said Tara Rollins, Utah Housing Coalition executive director.