SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – It’s the first of its kind in Salt Lake City, an apartment complex built from the ground up specifically designed to transition homeless individuals off the streets and into permanent housing.
Mayor Jackie Biskupski joined homeless advocates in breaking ground on the Magnolia Apartments, a 65-unit facility Monday morning. They said it’s a big step forward in tackling Utah’s homeless crisis.
“Every unit we bring online represents a life that will forever be changed,” said Mayor Biskupski. “Together, we have brought more than 2,500 affordable housing units into the pipeline, including hundreds of units like those being built here at Magnolia.”
In a press conference, Shelter the Homeless Executive Director Preston Cochrane said the $16 million facility is a project three years in the making. It will serve single chronically homeless men and women by providing stable housing and services to help address the issues that resulted in their homelessness. The complex, although owned by Shelter the Homeless, will be operated by The Road Home.
“These apartments will have on-site case managers and property management who will be there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’ll bring on lots of service providers for medical needs, mental health, and substance abuse support,” said Michelle Flynn, Interim Executive Director for The Road Home.
The project is funded through a contribution from multiple agencies: Salt Lake City issued a loan of $1.5 million from their Housing Trust Fund and offered a discount of $12 per year for the ground lease of the land, the Olene Walker Housing Trust contributed $2 million, and $10 million in housing tax credits were sold to investors such as Goldman Sachs and Zion’s Banks to provide gap financing for $1.3 million.
“Most developers have no incentives to do permanent supportive housing. Quite often the incomes are lower with these residents, the number of vacancies that come up are much more common, lease enforcement might be tougher, and screening may have to be less stringent,” said Dan Nackerman, Executive Director for the Housing Authority of Salt Lake City. “Most of all, extra services are needed to successfully support the needs of these very important citizens who are often coming out of something bad to a better way of life.”
Flynn said the process of screening individuals eligible for supportive permanent housing is already on-going through other facilities they overlook, such as Palmer Court. They conduct assessments to determine which homeless individuals are the most vulnerable and need help.
Residents will be required to put 30 percent of their income towards rent with Housing Authority of Salt Lake City paying for the rest through $5.3 million worth of vouchers distributed over the next 15 years.
“Housing is the solution to end homelessness. Different kinds of housing, lots of different kinds of housing are needed. Permanent supportive housing like the Magnolia has a significant impact and really can help increase that flow through and help those emergency resource shelters be just that short, short term stay while people get into a place that is the long-term option,” said Flynn.
Although the new complex will help free up space in the three new homeless resource centers, Flynn said the work to combat Utah’s homeless crisis is far from done.
“The hard work of refining, adjusting, improving our processes, our program, and results has just begun,” she said. “We are a housing-first system. This does not mean housing-only. It means connecting people to housing as quickly as possible because no one needs to live in a shelter. We need an even greater array of types of deeply affordable and supportive housing in order to see the success that we have to have in our newly launched homeless services system.”
Construction on the Magnolia Apartments is expected to be completed in Spring 2021.
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