Today, the Salt Lake County Council approved three major initiatives totaling $32.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to increase affordable housing inventory, prioritize water conservation, and innovate workforce development.
The $20 million infusion into the County’s Housing Trust Fund aims to fund the construction and preservation of 1,200 units near food, jobs, broadband, transportation, schools, and childcare resources.
“More affordable housing is desperately needed,” Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said. “There are way too many hard-working households that are left behind because of skyrocketing home prices, rising rents, and fewer options to choose from. Salt Lake County is listening to residents and responding with significant funding to build and preserve housing.”
During 2021, rental costs increased by 12% and homeownership costs increased by at least 28% in Salt Lake County. In March 2022, the median price for a Salt Lake County single-family home sold for $580,000. Meanwhile, the average salary for many local essential workers — retail, truck drivers, cashiers, cleaners, mail delivery, and others — remains $31,150. Residents, especially those impacted negatively during COVID-19, are simply facing too many cost barriers in accessing safe, affordable housing.
“Housing is one of the things that keeps us up at night,” Dina Blaes, director of Salt Lake County’s Office of Regional Development, said, “But, fortunately the County has a lot of expertise in affordable housing. So, we’re going to leverage our expertise with this new funding to enable thousands of families to remain living and working in Salt Lake County.”
The affordable housing funds will be distributed in the form of grants to community housing organizations, nonprofit housing providers, municipalities, and private developers closely reviewed by an application process overseen by the advisory board. Projects funded and units constructed with these affordable housing funds will help Salt Lake County residents in Qualified Census Tracts or that have low to moderate household incomes.
A new program called Workforce Inclusion & Successful Employment (WISE) was also funded with $10 million. WISE aims to propel at least 1,500-2,000 students toward successfully completing programs that lead to higher-paying careers.
The five-year pilot focuses on outreach and connecting students with wraparound services, which are key to people’s ability to learn and be successful. Grants will be given to workforce development programs to connect students with existing services like childcare, mental health care, and mentorship to increase program completion.
“I think this is an awesome opportunity for Salt Lake County residents who might be working two or three jobs. We’re making it easier for them to succeed with career goals that really help themselves and their families,” Jevon Gibb, Salt Lake County Economic Development Director, shared with the County Council.
Many residents are aware of Utah’s struggle with the current drought — the worst in 50 years. Salt Lake County is also projected to add 600,000 residents by 2065. Water for current and future populations is a top concern for Salt Lake County.
To meet water challenges, Salt Lake County invested $2.1 million in a regional water conservation program to generate significant water savings by collaborating with municipalities and unincorporated areas to develop sound water conservation policies in tandem with land use action plans.
The program, to be jointly managed with the Utah League of Cities and Towns, will conduct research in partnership with municipalities and townships to establish baseline water use; then develop individual water conservation and land use action plans; enact approved action plans; and ultimately collect data from those that participate to analyze and report water savings.
These efforts will help the region reach the Utah Division of Water Resources’ goal of 187 gallons of water per capita per day in Salt Lake County by 2030.