Jul 18, 2022 - News

Gentrification is driving low-income families out of Salt Lake City

Illustration of one old fashioned key surrounded by newer keys.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Displacement in Utah's capital city is worsening. Low-income families are being priced out and can no longer find affordable neighborhoods in town, according to a new gentrification study released last week.

State of play: The report is part of a citywide effort and is by Thriving in Place, a group that seeks to understand displacement and gentrification in Salt Lake City.

  • They gathered input from 2,150 survey respondents, 50 focus group participants, 70 in-depth interviews, and 200 students.

What they found: The report said there are no more affordable neighborhoods in Salt Lake City.

  • That's a finding the study's partner, the Urban Displacement Project at the University of California, Berkeley had not seen around the country before.
  • Researchers found there was a strong desire among residents to preserve and increase affordable housing in the city.

Details: Nearly all survey respondents (95%) said they directly experienced some impacts of gentrification and displacement in Salt Lake.

  • Almost 40% expressed they want to buy a home but cannot afford to do so.
  • Nearly 20% said they moved out of their homes due to rent increases.
  • About 13% said they were close to moving out due to high rent costs.

What they're saying: "My daughter who is 30 can’t afford to live in my area despite a good-paying job. If she loses her current rental, I don't know where she will go," said one participant.

  • "Small, locally owned businesses are being pushed out due to demolition and unaffordable rents in new businesses, and we are losing our architectural heritage in the city," another participant said.

Additional findings: Half of Salt Lake City renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing, the report found.

  • Black and Latino renters are more likely to be forced out due to earning lower wages.
  • Of note: Researchers said the neighborhoods experiencing high rates of people having to leave due to affordability are areas that were redlined during the mid-1900s.

The big picture: As Utah encounters booming population growth, the state's housing inventory is struggling to keep up.

  • Of Salt Lake County's estimated 148,500 rental units, about 98% are occupied.

What's next: Phase two of the study, slated to be released later this year, will explore solutions to the city's housing issues.

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