Birds need a nest in Salt Lake City

by Mack Christian Culp

Everyone needs a place to call home. Even birds need a nest. And for the first time in the post-World War II era, the United Nations reports world-wide refugees have exceeded 50 million people. The European refugee crisis mostly consists of Syrians. Propelled by fear and desperation, 50 million refugees have faced one hurdle after another.These men, women, and children have been forced to leave their homes to escape persecution, and war. Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, the United States, and many other countries have closed their borders or imposed travel restrictions on these refugees. The unwanted people of Europe.

The unwanted people of Salt Lake City, Utah may include, but are not limited to: gays, men, women, those over 29, coffee drinkers, non-skier/snowboarders, non-Mormons, and people with low incomes. Yes, each of those have been linked to restrictions placed on housing applicants in the Salt Lake Valley in the last month.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that nearly half of renters in the Salt Lake valley are living on the edge of homelessness and financial disaster. The struggle to lay claim to some small corner of space is something we expect to see in crises abroad, but not exactly in our hometowns.

I’ve scoured listings for apartments online this past year, looking for decent affordable housing close to school at the University of Utah. To my surprise, I didn’t fit the criteria for most renters. It may have been unintentional at the time, but now it has provided me with an insider’s view on the subject of the displaced in the Salt Lake Valley. Renting out rooms for a few months here, a few months there.

According to the online listing service ApartmentList, 25.6 percent of the Salt Lake City’s tenants fork over between 30 cents and 50 cents of every dollar they earn on monthly rent, and another 23.1 percent are severely cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than half their earnings to rent apartments or houses.

The burden of paying for an overpriced apartment or home to live is one thing, but navigating the internet and it’s listings is another quest altogether. No laws bar these relationships between renters and landlords formed on the dark web. So let’s go there.

“I have to be very careful about what I say. You don’t want to discriminate against anyone,” said Melina Dibble, a certified leasing agent in Salt Lake City. “Because we are managed by a property management company our laws are a little intense. Private owners do their own thing.”

Your rights may be overlooked if you decide to look for affordable options not provided by pricey property management companies like Dibble’s. PM companies are required to allow all people to apply for housing because of  fair housing laws from the federal government. But it’ll cost you. It’s often less expensive to rent from homeowners directly. These landlords can pick and choose the characteristics of their ideal renter; by things like age, sex, or religion.

“People who own homes looking to fill a room have specific wants and needs … you might feel like you’re being discriminated against, [because] how are you going to find a place?” said Dibble.

Being the gatekeeper of refugees, or the displaced enables you to open or close the door to whom you wish. Being as ethnocentric as you please is accepted here in Salt Lake City. Take a look at listings on KSL.com, Craigslist, or any other site.

Two listings for a one-bedroom apartment from KSL.com:

1107 E Michigan Ave., · Salt Lake City, UT

Available December 1st. Looking for someone between ages 22-30, college students and LDS standards. No drinking alcohol or coffee or smoking/drugs allowed in house or property. Must be Clean and respectful. Must be responsible. No Drama.

1443 w 1335 s near freeway · Salt Lake City, UT

Student & working?  Private room; $350 includes all Utilities/HS internet/ Washer-Dryer/Eveything! Please read: Private Room is UNFURNISHED. bathroom-kitchen etc are shared. ONE PERSON IN ROOM ONLY/no couples or shared. Looking for MALE roomate. LDS/Christian standards a must. No smoking; respectful, honest, no drugs or alcohol foul-dirty language etc. –  Nice, clean and quiet place to live, I am Interested in renting to student who works and needs a CLEAN, QUIET, and SAFE place to live. … foul odors free; very important. Person interested must be responsible. Must be over 18 years. 

These are just a few examples of the hyper-similar string of listings I found in my extensive search for a nest in the past year. Strapped for money like so many other young aspiring adults in the Salt Lake Valley, I felt like this string of listings were my only option. Although, Salt Lake Mayor, Ralph Becker has outlined an initiative for 5,000 additional affordable apartment options in the next five years, his plan won’t help people in my situation. “Private” landlords still freely discriminate protected classes and other marginalized groups and that’s not going to change anytime soon that I can see.

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