Frustrated that nothing seems to have moved in a positive direction since an affordable housing summit on June 1, Orem leaders are holding an affordable housing charrette Thursday.
During the June housing summit, several needs and ideas were set forth by the public and guest speaker June Hiatt, policy director at the Utah Housing Coalition.
“We are holding the charrette to find out what people want and how they see that happening,” said Kena Jo Mathews, Orem’s community services manager. “We know the problem — it’s what are we going to do about it?”
For those who have heard the term but do not know the definition, a charrette is a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map out solutions.
Mathews said a variety of stakeholders have been invited to be a part of the charrette, including UVU students, low-income residents, developers, realtors, city officials and more. The public is also welcome to attend.
Hiatt said at the June summit that if a person is spending 50% or more of their monthly income on housing, they are considered cost burdened. More people are finding they are in that category with rent and mortgages continuing to explode and wages staying stagnant; and the disparity between the two continues to grow.
According to the Utah Association of Realtors, the median home price in Utah County has risen drastically over the past several years: In June 2018, the median home price in Utah County was $315,000, and in June 2017, it sat at $273,000. In June 2010, you could get a home in Utah County for a median price of $197,000.
To only spend 30% of total income to purchase and pay mortgage for a home in the area, a person or household would have to make $93,000 a year. The average two-wage earner home in Orem is making between $75,000 and $79,000 a year, according to Mathews.
Many local residents spend well over 30% of their income on housing costs, which often takes away from their food and transportation budgets. Mathews said that most people are two paychecks away from being homeless.
There are 51,000 low-income renters in Utah, Hiatt said. Of those, 67% are cost burdened. They have no disposable income.
“Not having disposable income affects the economic outlook of the state,” Hiatt said.
Data shows that 55,000 more units are currently needed to house the Utahns who are currently on housing waiting lists who share others’ home living spaces in the meantime. That includes adults living in their parents’ homes, or vice versa.
One of the difficult aspects for those who work in non-profit groups helping individuals to find affordable housing is that fact that many people don’t believe the need is as real as indicated.
After the 30% housing cost, people are using 20% of their income on transportation. The other 50% goes to food, medical, schooling, clothing and any other purchases.
However, the need is real enough that Senate Bill 34, which requires that cities plan for affordable housing, passed in this past state legislative session. Orem is working on in-depth programs to fulfill requirements set by the state, but as of yet has not had a clear direction or movement from stakeholders.
Another area of housing not getting adequate attention is senior citizens housing and housing for those with Americans with Disability Act issues.
The affordable housing issue is becoming more political as well. In a national affordable housing survey, 61% said they would vote for city council candidates who make housing one of their platform issues.
That has not occurred for the most part in Utah County. So Orem is moving to the charrette.
“We want a positive discussion,” Mathews said. “My hope is that we do something. Let’s show we’re committed.”
Mathews said she would like to see at least five workable ideas between tiny homes to affordably built homes.
Comparing it to a countertop, Mathews said there needs to be a mix; not all home owners need or want marble counters or even Corian. There are people who need housing that are just fine with the less expensive Formica counters.
The charrette will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, in the council chambers at the city building, 50 N. State St.