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Can you afford to live in downtown SLC?

Posted at 9:52 PM, Nov 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-26 17:55:40-05

SALT LAKE CITY — “This is an exciting time to be in Salt Lake City,” said Derek Miller, President and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance.

Downtown Salt Lake City is booming with new restaurants, nightlife, shops and new apartment complexes.

“We would spend time at the bars or the clubs, we`d go dancing downtown, everything that is entertaining was downtown,” Jon Buck said.

Earlier this year when Buck needed to find a new place to live, his first thought was to look downtown.

“I work down here, I like the nightlife, I like the city life,” Buck said.

Buck has kids, so he focused on two-bedroom apartments, looking at four to five different buildings.

“They would start, for a studio, probably around $1,500 to $1,600 a month just for a studio," he said. "I’m moving from a 3,500 square foot house, and that`s about what my mortgage payment was."

According to research from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, in 2000 the average rent for an apartment in Salt Lake County was $647. In 2018, that number rose to $1,153. That's a 78% increase.

"I have a pretty good job, I make very good money and it was a struggle for me, like I thought I had arrived at the station in life where finding a place to live wouldn`t be a concern, like finding a reasonable place to live shouldn`t be a stretch for my budget,” Buck said.

Research shows a household will be cost-burdened if they spend more than 30% of their income on housing cost, and with rent outpacing incomes in Salt Lake, renters are becoming more stressed.

After checking with 10 different apartment complexes downtown, we found the average rent of a one-bedroom to be $1,389, which means a person must make at least $38.45 an hour to live comfortably within their means.

“So astronomical, that it just pushed me out of downtown,” Buck said.

Renters also need to be aware that advertised rent prices aren’t always what they seem — they often don't include additional expenses required by the lease, sometimes called media packages.

Those packages include things like utilities, cable, trash, parking and internet which can raise the monthly total of rent 50 to 300 dollars.

“People who are coming in and are saying for the second time this year, they had their rent go up,” said Bill Tibbetts, the Associate Director of Crossroads Urban Center.

Crossroads Urban Center is a resource center for people struggling to make ends meet.

“So places that were affordable are not affordable, and so much of the stuff being built really is more luxury-type apartments that are not affordable to most people who are in the rental market,” said Tibbetts.

Derek Miller, the President and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance says the rent increases are a side-effect of success.

“For the last three years running, Utah has had the fastest job growth in the country. We also have the fastest population growth in the country,” Miller said.

“Prices are going up too quickly, our wages are not growing the same way, and that`s causing a disparity," Miller said. "It`s a problem we need to get ahead of and a problem we need to solve."

Miller says the city is aware more housing is needed on all levels.

“We have about five different projects that are on the horizon,” he said.

“People need a place to live, and there simply isn`t one. With all the work and everything that`s going on downtown, that`s where people need to be and no one can afford it,” Buck said.

After a month of searching, Buck landed a place to live near Liberty Park, paying around a $1,000 a month for a two-bedroom.

“There`s problems, and sometimes I feel like I’m getting what I’m paying for, but basically it`s this nice little place I got really lucky to find,” he said.

For people looking to live downtown, the city is trying to find a solution.

“It`s important that there`s also a diversity downtown, that it`s not just singles who can afford to live downtown, or even roommates. We want to see our Salt Lake City, our capital city, vibrant in a diverse way, so that there`s families who can afford to live downtown as well,” Miller said.

For anyone looking to move into the downtown area, the apartment boom and rent prices are predicted to keep rising for the next several years.