Utah Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee receives funding requests totaling $157 million to address the state’s affordable housing crisis
The Utah Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee heard testimony on Tuesday for funding requests from various state agencies and programs devoted to social services.
Based on budget recommendations approved by the Executive Appropriations Committee (EAC) last month, the Social Services Committee’s base budget for ongoing funding this session is $1.48 billion. The budget incorporates $141.8 million of the governor’s budgeted line items for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Much of the hearing focused on affordable housing initiatives as Rep. Stephen Whyte (R – Mapleton) presented nine separate requests for appropriations (RFA) that totaled more than $157 million. This includes funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, as well as ongoing and one-time funding designations from the state.
“[Housing] is complex,” Whyte said. “There’s not a simple answer. It is a statewide need. The thought and the strategy behind all of these proposals from the Commission on Housing Affordability is to increase [the] supply of homes in the state, to be able to help first-time homebuyers be able to get into a home, to help renters—the low-income families, the homeless population, and our rural communities as well, ensuring we have accountability for every tax dollar that is spent so it is used wisely and we can see a return on the investment.
In addition, in the next several days, there will be three housing affordability bills that will be released, which will complement these RFAs from a policy perspective that will address the housing challenges throughout the state.”
One of those RFAs comes from the Utah Housing Preservation Fund (UHPF), a public-private investment fund owned by the Utah Nonprofit Housing Corporation. UHPF is requesting $15 million in ongoing funds to preserve 900 affordable housing units across the state to help support the “critical need” for rent-stabilized housing in the state.
UHPF reported the state had an “acute” housing shortage of nearly 40,000 units and an “extreme” shortage of affordable units. According to officials, Utah housing prices have outpaced every state except Colorado, Oregon, and Montana since the 1990s.
Meanwhile, the Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) is seeking a $100 million appropriation ($80 million in ARPA funding and $20 million in general funds) to continue its affordable housing grant program. The program awarded $55 million in statewide grants last year that contributed to 679 deeply affordable housing units. With the current request, DWS estimates up to 1,200 deeply affordable housing units could come online as a result.
Other funding requests for affordable housing initiatives included financing for low-interest home loans, expanding the low-income housing tax credit, down-payment assistance for teachers and firemen, and housing rehabilitation.
The subcommittee will reconvene on Friday to finalize the appropriation requests to a base list, which will be considered next week.