Students attending school full time are not only affected by rising tuition rates. The limited availability of affordable housing is also plaguing their budgets.
Finding affordable housing in the state of Utah can be quite difficult when house prices are unattainable for many. Utah still has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation according to RealtyTrac. This leaves more and more people in need of adequate housing and more people on the hunt for rental housing.
Some affordable homes are being torn down and demolished to make way for bigger, more expensive homes that sometimes end up on this foreclosure list.
“There’s something wrong about taking a piece of property and building a house so big on it that you block out the sun from your neighbors,” said Roscoe Petroff, a father of five who is currently looking for affordable housing because his current residence is being torn down.
Petroff and his family of seven are being evicted out of their three bedroom 1400 square foot rental home in order to make way for a 5000 square foot house and a family of three to move in.
Their rental house built in 1967 is in a prime realty location where older, modest homes are being torn down in favor of more expansive homes. Some lots that once supported a decent sized house and yard are now home to one or more grandiose homes with little to no yard.
“It makes no sense to me to build a house on a piece of property that takes up every available space that’s there. It just comes down to the people who have money are able to manipulate the system. They do what they need to do and what they want to do,” Petroff said.
Some argue that building newer houses in communities raises the property values of those around them. But the gap between the rich and the poor widens as more affordable modest homes in good areas are torn down and replaced with “monster homes”.
“You’re entitled to do whatever you want with your money,” Petroff said. “If you want to build a house that’s way bigger than you need then you’re entitled to do that but it sure does seem sad. If you go through the neighborhood, especially these old neighborhoods just being torn down and replaced by houses that are so big and then you really wonder how many end up in foreclosure.”
Petroff is a self-employed contractor who says that it is hard to qualify for loans. He’d like to buy a home but one he could afford that would house his entire family in a good area is hard to come by.
Because his current landlord started the eviction process on them—not because they haven’t paid rent but so he can start building sooner—the eviction has gone on Petroff’s credit and now he is having a hard time finding a landlord sympathetic to his story.
“So then you have a house that’s either vacant, trying to sell it for a long time because they have a house that’s three quarters of a million that very few people can actually afford or they try to rent it and nobody can afford that.”
One may argue that building homes creates new jobs. But many of these newer homes are out of reach of moderate wage earners. The housing crisis has affected the middle income bracket in this current economy. Even professors are not immune when it comes to finding housing they can afford.
“So far I have not had good luck,” said Jessica Frogley, who teaches in the English Department at SLCC and is looking for an apartment.
Frogley is having difficulty finding a place to live that is less than $700 a month. When she has been able to locate a feasible option, the place is often quickly rented or it is in an undesirable location. Both occurred on one of Frogley’s recent house hunting trips. She sees it as an overabundance of renters looking for affordable rentals as the problem.
“The need is so great”
As hard as housing market is for the middle class, the effects on lower income families have been devastating. The Utah Housing Authority has a waiting list between three and five years long for low income families to obtain government assistance.
Many of lower income families are living doubled up in apartments and some live on the streets. The Housing Authority partially blames the economy and the shortfall in government funds, but the main problem they see is the limited availability of affordable housing.
“The need is so great, even with the government funding it’s just not enough,” said Marni Timmerman, Resident Service Manager from the Utah Housing Authority. While the waiting list is long, Timmerman says it’s still important that they apply. There are valuable resources and help that the Housing Authority can offer those in need.
Visit the Housing Authority website if you’re experiencing a hardship in finding housing. Also, contact your city officials and ask what they are doing to provide affordable housing in your area.