Their hope is to use $4 million of $22 million set aside for affordable housing last year by the City Council (which also acts as the RDA board) to raze a disreputable North Temple motel and erect a $44 million mix of market-rate and affordable housing in its place, with the help of the Western Regional Nonprofit Housing Corporation.
The Overniter Motel would not be mourned long, at least not at City Hall. City records show 10 cases of code violation since 2008.
Its owners were charged with felony manslaughter last summer after a 96-year-old woman — the mother of one of the owners — was found dead in one of the motel’s rooms due to what the state medical examiner declared “chronic neglect.” She weighed 72 pounds.
According to the indictment, a county health inspection of the room “found the mattress was stained with urine and feces, and rags with fecal material were found behind the mattress. The toilet did not flush properly, the bathtub did not drain properly, and when inspectors turned on the water in the bathtub, the water came out orange.”
Melissa Jensen, director of the city’s division of Housing and Neighborhood Development, said the city has heard frequent complaints about seedy motels, and its “blue-ribbon commission” on affordable housing “saw the opportunity to say, ‘I think we can do something great with these motels.’”
There, it anticipates a $21 million development that would add 150 total housing units, of which 60 would be affordable. That property is under contract, too, but unlike the North Temple motel, it doesn’t have an applicant waiting to develop it.
Through acquisitions, investment and a new incentive program, the RDA says it could help create more than 750 affordable units. Of those, more than 400 would be rented to those earning 40 percent or less of AMI — which comes to about $25,000 for a family of four, Jensen said.
The plan includes a contribution of $2 million toward two already planned developments: a mixed-income project at the corner of 400 South and 300 East and permanent supportive housing at 525 S. 500 West. Subtracting those investments and their 325 affordable units, the remaining $20 million would buy just 440 affordable units.
That the money doesn’t go further is “sobering data for everyone,” Walz said. “When we‘re talking about homelessness and providing housing for that demographic and people at that income level, that amount — that subsidy per unit — increases significantly. That is the most difficult type of housing to provide.”
The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that Utah has a shortage of 47,000 homes for extremely low-income renters, or those at less than 30 percent of AMI. A draft housing plan released by Salt Lake City in February cited a 2010-2014 analysis that found a shortage of 7,500 rental units for households making $20,000 or less per year.
Still, council members are likely to have a few questions about the loan proposal Tuesday. Among them: Why should the city acquire new properties when it already owns properties that it has yet to develop — which Councilman James Rogers quizzed Walz about earlier this month when Walz bid $4 million to buy back a blighted development at 255 S. State St.
Walz noted that the RDA’s proposal includes at least $2.5 million in incentives for affordable units in “high opportunity” areas. Areas receiving the highest score for “opportunity” are east of 700 East between 800 South and Interstate 80, and along the city’s more affluent East Bench.