Affordable housing is one of the main issues Utah is facing as Salt Lake City’s population has nearly doubled in the past couple of years. More people are moving into Utah than ever before. Consequently, the lack of affordable housing becomes the underlying cause of most other major issues affecting Utah’s working class. Many Utah residents are struggling to make ends meet.
The American Dream
Taymour Semnani came on the Utah Stories podcast to discuss affordable housing in the context of the American Dream. Is The American Dream evaporating because people can no longer climb the socio-economic ladder as they once did?
Semnani’s parents fled Iran during the revolution, and were “passportless and countryless”, and America gave them a passport and said, “Try to make something of it”. As a first-generation American descendant of Iranian immigrants, Semnani’s father, Khosrow Semnani chose to raise his family in Salt Lake City. He landed in Utah, like most immigrants with nothing. He began by mopping floors and found that his dedication and hard work could get him ahead. Westminster gave Semnani’s father a full-ride scholarship. Then he attended The University of Utah and earned a master’s degree. Since his degree was in industrial, and nuclear engineering, he founded Enviro Care.
In 2013 Khosrow Semnani acquired Trolley Square. “He went to Trolley Square as a kid, and had memories there,” Taymour Semnani told us emphasizing how much his father respects the history of Trolley Square.
Today, Taymour wants to be able to raise his kids in Salt Lake City saying, “We ought to be careful to do the same things and offer a different result.” The American dream has traditionally consisted of allowing anybody, no matter how poor, to rise out of poverty and succeed through hard work. The “meritocracy”
Affordable Housing in Salt Lake City
Taymour Semnani hopes to make a change in affordable housing policy and homelessness in Salt Lake City. “I don’t think our city is contemplating what it takes for someone who’s on the street who doesn’t have access to a support network, a family network, a professional network, who doesn’t have access to money to get into inpatient rehab, what it’s going to take for them to get clean.”
He believes that without the provision of an owner occupancy limit, it will be difficult for housing in Salt Lake to escalate. “If we’re talking at a really high level, it’s a question of what we’re prioritizing in our housing mix,” he explains.
Essentially creating a provision of the owner occupancy limit would allow a local developer to create an ADU parcel, and sell it to an owner occupant to create more housing for single families to rent out. “Institutional developers are not incentivized to do that because there’s not a ton of money in it, but there are local developers who will do that.”