On Monday, September 12, 2022, faith leaders from eight different faith traditions sent a joint letter to Governor Cox, Utah Senate President Stuart Adams and the Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives and the member asking them to find a way to fund additional housing units to reduce homelessness.
On Friday, September 9, the Utah Homelessness Council approved a proposal to spend $55 million to build 1,078 housing units across the state to reduce homelessness. The letter notes that this important investment was able to fund less than half of the projects that applied, “It is our understanding that there were more than $120 million in proposals submitted for consideration and so there are several worthy projects that would make a big difference that will not be built without additional funding.”
Rev. Monica Dobbins of First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City notes, “Utah has a real opportunity to make a difference in affordable housing and reducing homelessness, in a time when its citizens really need that help. All that’s required is the compassion and will to do it, and the creativity to use our resources to benefit everyday people.”
Rev. Christine Higueria-Street of St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Taylorsville explains why she signed the letter in this way, “I feel it is important that our representatives to make sure that the state of Utah is a welcoming, inclusive, and diverse place to live by insuring that people can afford to live here, this means making sure we have affordable housing for all its citizens. “
Rev. Lora Young of South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society adds, “Safe, affordable housing is public good that everyone benefits from. We have the opportunity to dramatically reduce homelessness with these funds- and potentially becoming a community that leads the way to a society where all may be housed safety and with dignity.”
The Rev Deacon Elizabeth Hunter of the Cathedral Church of St. Mark notes, “It is critical that faith communities support state and city initiatives for safe, affordable housing and related support services and case management for our brothers and sisters who need shelter.
In addition to being sent via email today, the letter will be presented in person tomorrow at the State Capitol Building during a meeting of the Utah Commission on Housing Affordability in Room 445 at 1:00 PM. The full text of the letter, and the agenda for the meeting on Tuesday, can be found below.
September 12, 2022
re: Funding for housing to reduce homelessness
Dear Commission on Housing Affordability, Governor Cox, Senate President Adams and House Speaker Wilson,
Last week the Utah Office of Homeless Services released recommendations for the use of the $55 million in American Rescue Act funds that the Utah Legislature set aside for deeply affordable housing. The recommendations are expected to produce 1,078 total affordable units with 679 of those units projected to be deeply affordable and 529 units specifically to be used to move people out of homelessness.
It is our understanding that there were more than $120 million in proposals submitted for consideration and so there are several worthy projects that would make a big difference that will not be built without additional funding. The Coalition of Religious Communities urges the Commission to explore options for funding these extra projects, including:
1. Determining if nondedicated ARPA funds placed in the transportation fund could be used for this purpose. It is our understanding the about $1 billion in ARPA funds were placed into the transportation fund at the end of the session without being committed to a specific projects.
2. Determining if non-committed Emergency Rental Assistance funds, that at are at risk of being returned to the feds if unused, can be dedicated to funding some of these projects,
3. Suggesting that projects which cannot be funded with ARPA funds instead be funded with one time budget surplus funding.
As faith community leaders, we urge you to please do what you can to support bold action in this area. With strong leadership from the state Utah can dramatically reduce homelessness in the coming year.
Fr. Martin Diaz
Cathedral of the Madeleine
Rev. Monica Dobbins
First Unitarian Church
Rev. Vinnetta Golphin-Wilkerson
Granger Community Christian Church
Rev. Christine Higueria-Street
St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church
Rev. Charles Hines
St. Francis of Assisi Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The Rev Deacon Elizabeth Hunter
Cathedral Church of St. Mark
Rev. Kim James
Ogden First United Methodist Church
Rev. Steve Klemz
Pastor, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Retired
Pastor Bruce Kolasch Elim Lutheran Church
Rev. Martha M. Moler
Prebyterian Church, USA
Rev. David Nichols
Mount Tabor Lutheran Church, ELCA
Rev. Dr. Curtis Price, (he/him/his) Pastor, First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City
Rev. DanaLee Simon
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Rocky Mountain Synod
Rev. Lora Young
Unitarian Universalist Minister
COMMISSION ON HOUSING AFFORDABILITY
AGENDA TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2022 1:00 P.M. – 3:00 P.M.