Poverty and the Gentrification of Ogden City

Poverty and the Gentrification of Ogden City

Presently, I sit as the Chair of the Community and Economic Development Citizen Advisory Committee that offers community input for how Ogden City uses a $1M block grant it receives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  In many ways, our input is limited because HUD has very rigorous and detailed rules for how the money can be spent by the city.  Despite this though, we are able to provide input on emphasis and proportion.


Today’s meeting became very interesting as statistics were shared with us about poverty, affordable housing, subsidized housing, and racial diversity in our community.  (NOTE: Our nine member committee also happens to represent the geographic and racial diversity of the city.)  Some of the information shared was intriguing.  Here are some highlights.


Subsidized Housing is Sputtering

A member of our committee works with the Ogden Housing Authority which provides “Section 8” rent subsidies to qualified renters.  HUD, which funds OHA, limits rent allowances to between 90% and 110% of Fair Market Rent (FRM).  FRM for a two bedroom apartment in Ogden is $910.  So theoretically, OHA could pay as high as $1,001 for a two bedroom apartment if needed.  However, rent increases over the past several years have put significant strain on OHA’s ability to service its pool of Section 8 tenants. Under current funding, they can only pay 90% of FRM and still service their pool.  This limitation has guaranteed that OHA cannot keep up with FRM rent payments and therefore OHA tenants are limited to below average housing stock.  Our committee member added that, due to housing scarcity, three or four of their tenants will often be competing for the same vacant unit.  Combine this with the fact that there is a mile long (i.e. at least 6 month) waiting list for people to get their OHA voucher, and you have a recipe for unmet housing needs that looks unsolvable into the horizon.


Recession Alert Found in City Program Parameters

During our discussion, city staff mentioned that the increase in house prices and limitations placed by HUD on program guidelines meant that the window of opportunity to utilize their programs had shrunk significantly.  We discussed how city staff had recently begun adjusting some program parameters as much as they were allowed to accommodate low and moderate income buyers when purchasing HUD project homes.  Staff commented that the last time they had to make these same kinds of adjustments was late 2007 and early 2008.  That caught my attention.


Ogden Affordable Housing Scarce Like Everywhere Else 

Ogden City has seen incomes increase and housing costs increase since the year 2000.  However, the increase has not been even.  While incomes are up 44%.  Housing costs are up 69% from 2000 to 2017.  Yet, Ogden is not alone in this trend as this appears to be a problem nationwide.


Racial Poverty Limited in Ogden City

The U.S. Census tracks poverty rates and racial diversity in the various precincts across America.  Concentrations of both poverty and racial minorities together are a policy concern for HUD.  Our committee has been charged with approving the identification of factors that inhibit fair housing options for those who live in the city. These areas of concentration in the city are of particular interest because they have the greatest need.  The most recent information shows that, only three census tracts represent racially concentrated areas of poverty (RPAC).  To qualify as an RPAC, an area population must be over 50% minority AND 40% or more must live at or below the poverty line.


The City Continues to Gentrify

While the current data shows 3 census tracts as being impacted, reports from years previous  have shown that other areas of the city were once impacted but no longer are.  As the slow but steady gentrification process has begun to accelerate in recent years, two tracts have either changed in racial composition or proportion living poverty or both.  One tract includes the lightly populated industrial west side of town.  The other tract includes the East Central Bench (aka Trolley District) area of town between Washington and Monroe Blvd. from 25th Street to the Ogden River.  These two areas once had higher poverty rates or concentrations of minorities.  Having lived in this census tract for the past 15 years, anecdotally I can tell you that the racial diversity of our neighborhood has not changed much.  My hunch is that the economic prospects for those of us living here has improved.  The 2020 Census will have new information for us to show us how the poverty dynamic is changing throughout the city.

In all, this was a fascinating look under the hood of the city to see what unique challenges are affecting certain neighborhoods.  Hopefully our efforts on the Citizens Advisory Committee will help provide some opportunity for Ogdenites to improve their circumstances and help keep our city moving forward in its rejuvenation.