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GOVERNOR IS ASKED TO DECLARE AFFORDABLE-HOUSING EMERGENCY

Low-income advocates want Gov. Mike Leavitt to declare an "affordable-housing emergency" in Utah. And they have asked him to create a working group to set forth statewide housing policy, including a planning and funding strategy.

The request was sent in a letter to the governor and Legislature. It coincided with release of a study by the Low-Income Housing Information Service. The study, "Out of Reach," found that one-third of renters along the Wasatch Front can't afford the fair-market rent for even a one-bedroom unit and half of all renter households need a two-bedroom unit.To afford two bedrooms, a wage earner needs to make more than $6.50 an hour, knocking 44,000 households out of contention for rental units.

The study bases affordability on the official 30 percent of income standard used by federal housing subsidy programs.

"The problem is deep and continuous and it gets worse every day," said Tim Funk of Crossroads Urban Center during a news conference Thursday. "The problem is more serious than we thought."

Denise Mafi and her children have been on waiting lists for subsidized housing - along with 16,000 other families - for three years, with no end in sight, she said.

Rene Martinez and her two children have been on housing lists for more than two years. At one point, they were homeless for a few weeks. But Martinez described her family as lucky because their extended family helped them out. Even so, they live in a one-bedroom apartment and she estimates that it would cost her family $1,200 to relocate with deposits and first and last month's rent.

"We can't do it. I have $66 left over after I pay rent. It's unreal, and there are no rights for tenants. It's all for landlords right now."

As a result of the affordable-housing crunch, low-income families are homeless, live in substandard housing or are forced into "extended-family" housing situations, Funk said.

"The state commitment on affordable housing stinks," he said. "Legislators pat themselves on the back and have not done anything."

The report says families that receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children pay 96 percent of their three-person welfare grant on rent if they can't get subsidized housing. And a single person who receives Supplemental Security Income would have $105 a month to live on if he paid fair-market rental rates.

The letter was signed by Crossroads Urban Center, Community Coalition of Utah, Decency Principles Project and Justice, Economic Dignity and Independence for Women (JEDI Women).