Religious leaders, local nonprofits and lawmakers are urging the Utah Legislature to restore funding for affordable housing to pre-pandemic levels or higher, in an effort to end homelessness among children.
Among families with kids, more than 15,000 Utahns have received homeless services since 2017, according to a report from the Crossroads Urban Center.
In the last 11 years, there are 220,000 more households in Utah, but the state has seen only about 185,000 more housing units, a 35,000-dwelling deficit.
Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, said housing needs to be thought of as critical infrastructure.
"We frequently think of infrastructure in terms of highways and rail lines, and airline issues and runways and things like that," Kitchen observed. "But I also think we got to be realistic here, that without stable, affordable housing for Utahns and Americans, we're going to come up short."
Kitchen stressed now, in the early stages of the 2021 legislative session, is the time to act to make more affordable housing a priority.
Sarah Brundage, senior director of public policy for Enterprise Community Partners, wants Congress to pass the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, to strengthen the existing system of low-income housing tax credits.
She noted the program has financed nearly 29,000 affordable housing units in Utah.
"This program is really critical for us having enough affordable housing for people who have experienced homelessness to have support," Brundage contended. "And the long-term stability that we know an affordable, safe and healthy home provides."
At least 11% of Utahns are behind on rent, according to Census Bureau data.
Nationally, nearly one in five renters hasn't caught up, and one in four households with children. The data also show the housing-cost burden falls disproportionately on Black, Brown and Indigenous renters.