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Opinion: This organization has a solution to Utah’s housing crisis — permanent preservation

The Utah Housing Preservation Fund aims to use housing preservation to solve the affordability crisis

SHARE Opinion: This organization has a solution to Utah’s housing crisis — permanent preservation
City Lofts Apartments is under construction in Salt Lake City on Jan. 26, 2023.

City Lofts Apartments is under construction in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. City Lofts is marketed as an affordable apartment community.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Safe, comfortable and affordable housing can be the difference between merely surviving and thriving for many Utah families. Increased rents have put a heavy burden on many Utah families and forced many to move due to housing unaffordability. According to the National Housing Preservation Database, in the next 5 years, Utah is at risk of losing more than 6,000 affordable housing units, proving Utah’s ever-growing need to prioritize housing preservation. 

The Utah Housing Preservation Fund (the Fund) aims to be the solution to this critical problem. The Fund is dedicated to permanently preserving affordable housing units for low-to moderate-income Utahns. Housing preservation is an effective strategy in combating the decrease in housing affordability because it’s cost-effective, it’s quick and it benefits tenants and communities. 

The Fund was created to address housing affordability in Utah and protect those most vulnerable to this housing crisis. The Fund raises public and private-sector capital and partners with municipalities and the multifamily brokerage community to source naturally occurring affordable housing. Once the Fund acquires these properties, it addresses renovation needs while protecting monthly rent. This effort protects Utahns from displacement and provides stability. This effort also prevents gentrification and ensures that communities remain diverse and vibrant.

Preserving affordable housing is not just about helping those who are struggling financially; it’s about maintaining the fabric of our communities. Housing is a fundamental need; everyone deserves access to safe and affordable housing options. Scott Anderson, President of Zions Bank, said, “If we want to maintain the quality of life that we have historically known in Utah for our children and grandchildren, we have to ensure that we are preserving affordable housing.”

In the recent 2023 budget, the Utah legislature approved $10 million to support the Utah Housing Preservation Fund. The Fund was created to permanently preserve Utah’s at-risk affordable housing for low- to moderate-income Utahns. This investment from the State will be matched by private philanthropies, community-oriented banks, and other community-minded Utah companies to make a $115-$130 million impact and preserve an estimated 550 affordable housing units. Partnerships between the Fund and local nonprofits allow the Fund to serve transitional groups (those experiencing homelessness, refugees, veterans etc.) in need of safe, stable and affordable housing.

Utah’s housing crisis will take many pieces to solve the puzzle. Affordable housing preservation is one of the key pieces to the solution. The Fund and its private and public investors are passionate about housing affordability and its social impact. We urge our fellow Utahns to join us in advocating for affordable housing preservation as a critical tool in combating the affordable housing crisis. Let’s ensure that Utah remains a place where everyone can thrive, regardless of their income. To learn more about this effort, visit uhpf.org

Lukas Ridd is the Fund Manager of the Utah Housing Preservation Fund. Ray Pickup recently retired from serving as the CEO of WCF Mutual Insurance Company for 15 years.