By: Tara Rollins, Utah Housing Coalition Executive Director
The Utah Housing Coalition is dedicated to building equitable and sustainable communities to ensure all Utahans have a safe and affordable place to live. We do this through education, community partnerships, and advocacy at all levels of government. As a proud member and State Partner of the National Low Income Housing Coalition since 2004, we understand that our state and localities can’t address its affordable housing needs on its own; Congress must provide sufficient financial support. But after several years of attempting to engage with our Congressional delegation and receiving very little response, we decided it was time to take a different approach.
This summer we began facilitating quarterly educational tours around the state, a shift from our usual monthly membership meetings held in Salt Lake City. Through these tours, we aim 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. We believe this will ultimately serve as a path to increased engagement with the Utah Congressional delegation on affordable housing issues.
We 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.
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.
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 into making the development happen.
This new meeting strategy is a way to both make our membership meetings more effective and informative and to build relationships with state and federal officials. The bottom line is to have them see the impact federal funds have in their own communities. We believe the resources we’ve cultivated over the years as a member of NLIHC have set us up to be successful in this new endeavor, and we look forward to sharing advances made and lessons learned with others as we move through this process.
For more information on how you can work with partners like the Utah Housing Coalition and other advocates on ending homelessness and housing poverty in America, visit: https://nlihc.org/membership-month