Salt Lake City continues to be ranked among the top 10 most overvalued real estate markets in the nation as housing prices continue to rise. The median cost of a single-family home in Utah has increased 23.6% over the past year, following a 30.6% increase from 2020 to 2021.
Across the state, there have been record levels of housing shortages, with the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2022 report identifying a shortage of 40,981 affordable rental units in Utah.
Utah landlords are taking advantage of the severe housing shortage by rapidly raising rental prices. As of June 2021, 40% of Utah renters are paying more than 30% of their income in rent and 20% are paying more than 50% of their income in rent. But instead of holding landlords accountable, government officials sit idly by as more tenants face rent charges or lose their homes altogether.
In fact, some government officials in Utah are working with and making money from private real estate and development interests. Some of these housing capitalists actually run parts of the Salt Lake City government.
City council bans new homeless shelters
Unsurprisingly, these conditions have led to a steadily growing homeless population as more poor and working people are homeless. This trend has particularly affected Utah’s older population, with an 11% increase in the number of people over the age of 55 seeking homeless services between May 1, 2021 and April 15, 2022.
The homeless shelters that currently exist in Salt Lake City do not have sufficient capacity to meet the current and growing need for beds.
Despite the growing need for shelter space, the Salt Lake City Council voted unanimously to extend a moratorium on new homeless shelters until May 2023. They say their decision to extend the moratorium on new homeless shelters aims to “lead to a fairer distribution”. resources throughout the city” and to pressure “other cities to ‘get on with it’. But the housing crisis is no game for the working masses increasingly deprived of affordable housing.
As the manager of a local homeless shelter explained: “Our homeless people will stay in urban settings even if homeless service providers don’t stay in urban settings, or if there is a lack of urban homeless service providers”.
Local The politicians
In the city of Salt Lake, as in many American cities, local officials are often bought off and paid for by real estate and development interests.
According to public records, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall received at least $64,600 in real estate interest campaign donations between February 2021 and February 2022. These contributions represent 39% of her total donations and 80% of his large dollar contributions. (any contribution over $500).
Mendenhall is also married to a property developer, tying her family’s livelihood to housing development in the city.
As one local housing activist noted in a recent article by an investigative journalist, “[The Mayor] is more interested in representing business owners and developers. Her husband is a developer. There’s a Utah story for you! Her husband owns property just a block and a half from where the old homeless shelter was bulldozed.
In April, Salt Lake City Council applauded a $20 million allocation to its Housing Trust Fund board. A closer inspection of the Housing Trust Fund’s board reveals how the government works hand in hand with the ruling capitalist class.
The eight members of the Housing Trust Fund board elected by the city council have a clear conflict of interest in providing assistance to the unprotected population or those struggling to find affordable housing in the city. Most of them benefit from or have direct experience of maximizing profits for real estate investment projects – an endeavor that is directly at odds with lowering housing costs.
Below is a list of all current Board members and their connections to Real Estate Profits:
- Robert Rendon: director of community development at Zion’s Bank (banks profit from lending to real estate projects)
- Scott Cuthbertson: COO of “The Point Utah” (real estate developers who move the prison to convert land for real estate)
- Edward Makowski: financial advisor at Wells Fargo
- Paul Cherecwich: Retired corporate tax counsel (spent career building wealth from corporate interests)
- Matthew Pauly: Senior Partner at Gold Evans (an architectural firm)
- Marty Biljanic: Senior Director of Development for a commercial real estate development and investment firm
- Amy Rowland – Director of CDFA. CDFA is a non-profit community development organization that helps investment agencies obtain tax deductions by investing in low-income businesses.
- Shelley Bodily: Professor of architecture and Ballpark area resident who publicly complained about the area’s homeless population. She is also married to a project manager at FFKR architects.
None of the Housing Trust Fund board members are qualified to distribute financial assistance directly to homeless resources. In short, the $20 million allocated to this council is only a veiled attempt to line the pockets of real estate developers.
Salt Lake deserves better
The Mayor’s Office and City Council, both led by Democrats, repeatedly express sympathy for those most affected by the housing crisis, while their actions reveal utter apathy and an inability to provide material support . Instead, they funnel affordable housing money into their Housing Trust Fund board of elites who directly benefit from housing profits. They claim to represent everyone who lives in Salt Lake City, but they only represent the few people who can give the most to their campaigns.
The people of Salt Lake City, and all cities, do not profit from politicians in the pockets of real estate developers. As the number of people struggling to find affordable housing in the city grows, so does the need for a movement that can come together to increase the demand for housing for all!