‘Most people can’t afford it’: Rent in Utah causing frustrations

Utah Housing Crunch

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Minimum wage will not cover the cost of rent anywhere in the country, according to a new report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The report was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a research and advocacy organization dedicated solely to achieving affordable and decent homes for people with the lowest incomes, and the Utah Housing Coalition.

Utah has the 25th highest housing wage in the county, according to the report, and most low-wage workers are not able to afford an apartment, let alone a home.

The report suggests a person needs to make over $20 an hour to be to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Utah without paying more than 30% of their income on housing.

Debra Chamberlain is a single mother who is having a hard time finding an apartment or home to rent. She told ABC4 she is concerned she will have to move to another state because she cannot afford the high prices.  

“I don’t make near enough to pay that amount of money,” Chamberlain says.

The report says the average renter in Utah makes $15.66 an hour. That is $4.55 less than the hourly wage needed to pay for a unit.

Enrique Carpio is the leasing manager at Pierpont by Urbana. He says availability is limited during this housing boom and many potential residents cannot afford to live there right now.  

“Most people can’t afford it, most people have to have a co-signer with them,” Carpio explains.  

Some apartment managers require renters to make two and a half times the base rent to qualify.

“They do have a monthly rent, but on top of that, renters are required to pay additional fees for parking, for an entertainment package, for trash, taxes, eviction prevention fees,” Francisa Blanc, outreach coordinator with the Utah Housing Coalition tells ABC4.

While employers are competing for employees by paying them more, some renters worry it is not going to cut it.

“Even though employers are competing for employees paying higher wages, this is still not enough for households to afford their housing only paying 30% of their income to housing. In our tourist areas of the state businesses are unable to open full-time due to lack of workforce being able to live in the area.” 

“I am worried I’m going to have to relocate to another state because of it,” Chamberlain says.  

It is not only apartments costing renters more money, but homes too. In fact, the study explains those who make minimum wage are having to work 112 hours per week, at nearly three full-time jobs, to afford to rent a two-bedroom home in Utah.

“Housing is a basic human need and should be regarded an unconditional human right,” says Diane Yentel NLIHC president and CEO. “With the highest levels of job losses since the Great Depression and a pandemic that continues to spread, low-income workers and communities of color are disproportionately harmed. The enduring problem of housing unaffordability ultimately calls for bold investments in housing programs that will ensure stability in the future. Without significant federal intervention, housing will continue to be out of reach. This leaves millions susceptible to the overwhelming consequences of Congressional inaction.” 

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