Utah Seniors Warned Of Worsening Affordable-Housing Crisis

May 4, 2021

Of just over 49,000 subsidized rental-housing units for low-income Utahns, only about 16% were rented to senior citizens in 2019, according to a new report on preserving affordable senior housing.
Credit Konstantine_L/Adobe Stock

A new report warns that thousands of Utah seniors could lose their housing unless federal and state officials act to preserve existing senior housing subsidies.

The report, produced by AARP Utah, says over the next several years, millions of dollars in tax credits and block grants are set to expire, pushing vulnerable seniors out of affordable rental properties.

AARP Utah State Director Alan Ormsby said unless the rents are stabilized, property owners would be forced to charge current market rates, which could displace older people on fixed incomes.

"In Utah, we are in a statewide affordable housing crisis," said Ormsby. "If the state loses over 40% of its federally subsidized rental units for low-income seniors over the next 25 years, more than 15% of those units could be lost by 2030."

The report recommends including expiring senior housing units in moderate-income housing plans, establishing a dedicated fund for senior housing preservation, adopting age-friendly zoning codes, and requiring a one-year notice on expiring housing subsidies.

Ormsby said unless programs such as Section 8 and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit are properly funded, Utah could lose up to 120 senior housing units a year.

"Without this vital source of affordable housing," said Ormsby, "more than 3,000 senior households in Utah could experience housing instability and homelessness in the coming decades."

The report's author, Otelo Reggy-Beane - a fellow at the Utah Housing Coalition - said subsidized housing programs are planned out over decades, not just a few years.

"Senior housing preservation would not only maintain the affordability of the existing senior housing supply," said Reggy-Beane, "but it would also avert the unnecessary displacement of thousands of low-income older Utahns."

The report also recommends Utah officials consider establishing a statewide housing assistance program designed to stabilize subsidized rental costs for seniors. For more information about the report, go online at 'states.AARP.org' and click on 'Utah.'