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Games are the wild card in S.L. affordable housing

Rosemary Kappes pulls out pictures of her progeny, just like any proud mama. But her offspring happen to be affordable-housing units in Salt Lake City.

Just before receiving a $175,000 loan from the city for another special project, Kappes showed off photos of the Jefferson School apartments, 84 units under construction at 1099 W. South Temple. Those will serve as housing for Olympic personnel next February; after that about 33 of the apartments will become affordable housing.

Kappes, director of the Salt Lake Housing Authority, wasn't surprised by Tuesday's report on the city's worsening rental shortage. The national Coalition for Affordable Housing stated that nearly 70,000 low- and moderate-income families in the Salt Lake Valley are forced to live in rentals that are either severely inadequate or that eat up more than half their incomes.

But some affordable housing is being built here, Kappes said. The Federal Housing Administration may not be one of the major funders, but she has been corralling other benefactors, builders and city officials. Together they're financing homes and apartments for the variety of Salt Lakers hurt by the long shortage.

As with most aspects of life in Salt Lake City, the housing supply is greatly affected by the 2002 Winter Olympics. Karen Denton, director of the city's Housing and Neighborhood Development (HAND) office, says some tenants are facing evictions as property owners anticipate reaping higher rents during the Games. Denton's first-time home-buyer program seeks to help those and other renters secure home loans; last year hundreds of families purchased homes with HAND's help. HAND also provided rental assistance to more than 700 families in the past year.

Denton also noted that Prowswood Development is building 330 units near the Gateway center, first for Olympic workers and then for low- and moderate-income residents after the Games have departed. Construction is behind schedule, Denton said, but she is optimistic about those affordable apartments becoming available by early 2003. Yet "after the Olympics it's anybody's guess what will happen with the housing market."

Other future developments include the 155 apartments to be built by Neighborhood Housing Services at 600 W. North Temple; about 80 will be categorized as affordable, and for-rent signs will go up in mid-2002. Denton also expects the Bridges project at 500 West and 200 South will be finished this fall.

The need for homes that are both affordable and livable will continue to be huge, she said. A recent survey reported that the Salt Lake metropolitan area needs 26,000 units for new residents moving here and for people making the transition out of homeless shelters.

"The only problem for a homeless person isn't not having a home," she added. "You can't just plunk people down" in a house without support services to help them cope with substance abuse and other health problems, she said.

An example of transitional housing is about to materialize at Salt Lake City's Veterans Hospital. Valor House, the special project championed by Kappes and awarded the $175,000 city loan, has assembled another $474,000 from other funders. The renovated portion of the hospital campus will provide 40 previously homeless veterans with new housing and support services.

But making affordable housing happen is possible only with a gamut of funding partners, Denton said. HAND, the Housing Authority, Neighborhood Housing Services and the Utah Community Reinvestment Corp. all collaborate on ownership and rental programs. "Salt Lake City's still a small town where you get to know each other," Denton said. "We sit down with funders; it's like a poker game."