Expansion of Wasatch Community Gardens to include housing.
They are part of the expanding nonprofit group in Salt Lake City.
It might stand next to famous tomato plots, but it’s not your garden-type housing project.
Elected leaders said Tuesday that Salt Lake City will contribute $ 250,000 to help Wasatch Community Gardens move forward with a quirky mix of converted homes and new micro-dwellings rising alongside the association’s shared grow beds at 615 E. 800 South.
But rent from the city’s redevelopment agency for campus expansion aims to keep the rents for those eight studios more affordable than most – and the money won’t be forgivable, as the backers had demanded. funds.
“I’m struggling with this, even looking at a loan for it,” City Councilor James Rogers said on Tuesday, reacting to an initial demand that money from the city’s housing trust fund be removed. not reimbursed, in light of other benefits of the project to city residents.
The group’s forgivable loan application came amid several project-related fundraisers since 2019. The request also called for several exceptions to the city’s policy on how the GDR treats money in the fund. in the housing trust, which attracted nearly $ 2.59 million in new sales taxes in 2019-20.
Ashley Patterson, executive director of Wasatch Community Gardens, said Tuesday the city stands to gain from a rare chunk of preserved open space and new, denser housing stuck in an established, historic neighborhood, where land values can make construction prohibitive.
“We are not a real estate developer, so we were challenged,” Patterson told the RDA board of directors in a virtual meeting. RDA documents indicate that in light of the group’s inexperience, members sought money to cover “to protect themselves from the unknown”.
Rogers and other city council members, in their dual role as the GDR’s board of directors, ultimately opted for a flexible but comprehensive payment plan, drawing an adjustable share of the group’s cash flow up to 30 years. GDR board members then sought to erase the word “forgivable” from all city contracts authorizing the loan – a further sign of the city’s demand for resources to deal with the current shortage of funds. affordable housing.
“We recognize your sensitivity there,” said RDA COO Danny Walz, whose staff also recommended flexible reimbursement.
In an interview, Patterson said the option was acceptable, although the group may have to seek additional funding to implement everything. The housing units are part of the $ 6.2 million expansion and site redesign on the grounds of the gardens alongside rows of garden beds familiar to many like the grateful tomato garden.
In a largely self-financing project, the association is also converting three historic homes into offices and other facilities and installing the eight 435-square-foot units in a two-story building facing Green Street.
Rents for these homes are to remain affordable to people at 70% of the region’s median income for 50 years, starting at $ 1,025 per month when they open, according to city documents. The houses will also be at zero energy consumption, thanks to solar panels.
As advocates of community building around healthy, locally grown food, Wasatch Community Gardens continued the small development project after securing a 2016 easement protecting this residential corner of eastern Salt Lake City as agricultural land.
To meet the city’s other rules on mixing the building uses on the 1.2-acre site, Wasatch also obtained a rezoning of part of the land in a two-year process. The group also reviewed designs for the two-story corner apartment building located in the historic Central City district.
The city code to compensate for the loss of its housing stock due to demolition also required the group to replace the three historic homes it is renovating as office space, Patterson noted. Instead of building a few homes or selling to a for-profit developer, she said, the group planned eight units on a 3,200-square-foot site, each accommodating up to two residents.
Walz noted that the RDA had offered forgivable loans to developers in the Granary District on the condition of rehabilitating and reusing existing buildings, but the board made it clear on Tuesday that this should be treated as a rare exception.