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Utah Tenants Behind on Rent Could Soon Face Evictions


Friday, July 3, 2020   

SALT LAKE CITY - Groups working for affordable housing in Utah say the next two weeks could be "crunch time" for people trying to catch up on their unpaid rent.

Thousands of Utahns either lost their jobs or had their hours cut - part of the staggering economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Until now, most have been able to stay in their homes, thanks to an eviction moratorium and assistance programs put in place by the state.

But Tara Rollins, director of the Utah Housing Coalition, says tenants could soon run out of options.

"The first wave is going to be in the next couple of weeks," says Rollins. "And then the next wave will be when the other moratoriums are lifted, as well as when we no longer will be receiving unemployment and that extra $600."

The financial website "Self" finds that, statewide, a Utah household has to work 46 hours a week to afford the average monthly rent of just over $1,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.

The Salt Lake City metro average rent is $1,176 dollars a month. The national average is $1,200.

Rollins says Utah lawmakers recently moved the starting date for a rental assistance program to July 1st that could help some renters and homeowners, but it could take days or weeks to get the program started.

In the meantime, she says, the number of novel coronavirus cases is rising and that could stall Utah's economic recovery.

"Our numbers are going up," says Rollins. "So, we're kind of holding our breath to see if they're going to shut things down again. I know they don't want to do that, but people aren't wearing their masks."

Rollins say her group has worked with the Utah Legislature to use state and federal money to help people stay in their homes as long as possible.

"Our legislators are watching, they're hearing, they're listening on this," says Rollins. "And housing is very important to making sure our economy gets going again."

She says the Utah Housing Coalition has teamed up with Utah Community Action to offer an online version of "The Tenant Toolkit," which covers renters' rights and other information. She says more resources are available through the Utah 211 help line.

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