This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The three low-income hotels Salt Lake City owns on State Street were once deemed "public nuisances" by city inspectors.

Ten years ago, under a different owner, the single-room-occupancy (SRO) hotels were in such disrepair they were declared substandard, with their leaky faucets, broken windows, sagging ceilings and faulty smoke detectors.

The main problems were fixed before the city's Redevelopment Agency bought the Regis, Windsor and Cambridge hotels between 241 South and 255 South on State Street. But, in many ways, the city still views them as hazards - at least to its image - and plans to tear them down eventually to make way for a mixed-used project.

Tonight, City Council members will discuss what to do in the short term. They might consolidate tenants and demolish a hotel. They could continue to let the Regis and Cambridge empty out through attrition or decide to rent out empty rooms.

Council members will be taking a tour before their discussion, and here's what they will find: Tired buildings where the ceilings are waterlogged, the wiring is exposed in spots, the rooms are cramped and the windows are held open with beer cans and bottles.

They may miss the bugs - management sprays every three weeks.

But they will find tenants desperate for the hotels to remain - despite their many problems. The places may be noisy and unsightly, but the rooms are cheap and meet city code. The tenants - who work for low wages, can't find jobs or subsist on fixed incomes - say they cannot afford anywhere else. Even if they could, some carry criminal records and bad credit that would bar them from renting elsewhere.

Andy Sipple manages the Regis for the RDA and will guide the tour. He knows the building has problems.

"You do what you can," he says. "Because of the revenue stream that you have and the kind of people you get there, spending more money than you need to - to make it really nice - isn't worth it because people don't need that. For most people coming off the street, it's better than that."

The city vows it will find tenants new homes once the buildings are gone.

But low-income housing advocate Claudia O'Grady urges the city to do more by offering financial assistance for renters to move. Private developers who tap certain federal housing money must do that. And if such tenants' new homes are more expensive, those private developers would have to pay the extra rent for 42 months, according to federal relocation expert Jim Kenyon.

For now, the RDA isn't legally bound to those rules. But O'Grady argues the city should follow them for ethical reasons. "It's just the right thing to do."

Councilman Carlton Christensen agrees the city has a "moral obligation" to help.

"We would have to fairly deal with the tenants in some way. To what degree it entails, I don't know."

Next steps:

Salt Lake City's Redevelopment Agency owns four run-down buildings, including three low-income rental hotels, on State Street. It plans to demolish them eventually for a new mixed-use project.

The City Council must decide:

* Whether to raze the commercial building at 237 S. State and the Salt Lake Blue, a nearly vacant SRO building at 241 S. State. If the city keeps them open, it would need to spend $10,000 to repair a roof and more money on exterior paint.

* Whether to accept new tenants at the Regis and Cambridge hotels, 251 S. and 255 S. State, or eliminate tenants through attrition.

* Whether it is the city's role to build SRO housing. Should the city follow recommendations of a 2000 study that directed the RDA to buy land and seek developers to build SROs?

comments powered by Disqus