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Olympics may bring low-income housing to Gateway district

Olympic organizers are committed to helping to build low-income housing in Salt Lake City's west-side Gateway district, a top federal official said Tuesday.

The apartments would be used to house visiting journalists during the 2002 Winter Games.And the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to assign an employee to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to work on the project this summer, said Robert Hickmott, special adviser to HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo.

Hickmott is in Salt Lake City this week to designate the railyards and rundown buildings that make up the Gateway district as one of only 16 sites nationwide receiving development funds under a new federal initiative.

"Our primary goal in Gateway is to put housing in the area," Hickmott told the Deseret News. "The Olympics is driving this . . . (Housing built for the Games) is the primary focus."

But SLOC has yet to announce where it would be willing to spend up to $13 million for media housing. "That's still to be determined," spokeswoman Caroline Shaw said Tuesday.

The organizing committee asked for housing proposals nearly a year ago, offering as much as $13 million toward the construction of enough units to accommodate at least 500 and as many as 2,700 journalists.

They are expected to pay up to $160 a night for as long as a month for housing, the source of the money the organizing committee is putting up for the project.

Some 12,000 reporters, photographers and broadcasters from around the world are expected to cover the 2002 Winter Games. SLOC is responsible for securing a place to stay for many of them.

The organizing committee's request for proposals asked that the housing be within a half-hour radius of the Salt Palace, which will serve as the main press center during the Olympics.

Organizers did not make public the project proposals they received and did not announce their choice in January as originally planned. The contract was to have been signed by the end of May and the project completed by November 2001.

A recent SLOC publication notes that media housing has not been selected but states it will likely be newly built and self-contained with one to four bedrooms, a kitchen and common area.

A coalition of advocates for the state's disadvantaged residents has pressured SLOC to help provide much-needed affordable housing in the Salt Lake area and been critical of the project's pace.

The federal government also has an interest in using the Olympics for new housing. In April 1997, Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini secured a pledge from the HUD secretary to help with the Gateway housing project.

Now the federal agency is promising to pay for a full-time employee at the organizing committee to oversee the Gateway housing project. SLOC is private, funded by corporate sponsors, television networks and other revenues.

The position would be funded out of a program that benefits non-profit organizations. It would be the first time the federal program has been tapped for a Utah organization, according to John Milchick of Salt Lake's HUD office.