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Housing instability, homelessness threaten economic well-being of at least 40,000 extremely low-income renter households in Utah

Salt Lake City—Housing instability and homelessness threaten the economic well-being of at  least 40,000 extremely low-income renter households in Utah, according to recent analysis by the Kem C.  Gardner Policy Institute. These households have annual incomes of less than $24,000 and must devote at least  half of their income to housing and utilities.  

“Utah policymakers have significantly expanded affordable housing programs in response to the housing crisis,”  said Gardner Institute Ivory-Boyer Senior Fellow James Wood. “As this effort continues, a comparison of state  housing programs provides valuable policy insight as decision-makers aim to help reduce instability and increase  the number of affordable housing units.” 

Key findings from the report, which specifically focuses on four state-funded programs or policies, include the  following:  

  • Housing Shortage – Utah has a shortage of several thousand affordable rental units. The need for  affordable rental housing will likely continue to grow due to the high cost of homeownership, rising  rental rates, and historically low vacancy rates. 
  • 2023 Utah Legislative Session – The Utah State Legislature in 2023 passed six housing-related bills aiding  the homeless, first-time homebuyers, low-income housing developers, and home builders. A review of  housing legislation from 1996 through 2023 suggests this was the most productive session for housing  assistance in recent history. 
  • Rental Assistance Programs – 31 states have state-funded rental assistance programs. Many programs  directly supplement the income of very low-income households, rental assistance to those leaving  correctional systems or state psychiatric hospitals, loans for the first month’s rent, and housing vouchers  patterned on federal programs. 
  • Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund – The Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund (OWHLF) is Utah’s primary  state-funded housing program – OWHLF has participated in the development of 24,561 affordable rental  units since first funded in 1995 (at $2.4 million). State General Fund appropriations, however, have not  increased since the creation of the trust fund. 
  • State Tax Credits – Utah’s state tax credits for low-income housing helped fund 8,000 units across 147  affordable rental housing projects. In 2021 the available credit of $1.1 million ranked second lowest  among the 25 states with tax credit programs. However, Utah’s Legislature increased the program to  $10 million annually during the 2023 legislative session, aligning Utah’s funding with most state tax  credit programs.

State-Funded Programs – State tax credits, OWHLF gap financing, and funding of homeless shelters support the development of additional affordable units; however, these programs provide little housing assistance to the 40,000 extremely low-income renters. As a result, many states have added demand-focused programs to their affordable housing arsenal, programs that provide direct assistance to renters through rental assistance, state housing vouchers, and expanded eviction assistance.

The full report is now available online.

The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute serves Utah by preparing economic, demographic, and public policy research that helps the state prosper. We are Utah’s demographic experts, leaders on the Utah economy, and specialists in public policy and survey research. We are an honest broker of INFORMED RESEARCH, which guides INFORMED DISCUSSIONS, and leads to INFORMED DECISIONSTM. For more information, please visit or call 801-587-3717.

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