Dwarf Designs Online

Ogden's motel the only housing option for many poor residents
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
By Pat. A. Pearson
Guest commentary

According to statistics from the 2000 Census, the median income for Ogden area residents is around $36,000, although the per capita income is listed as $16,000. The reality is average employment in Ogden pays $7 per hour, which equates to only $14,500 per year. After deducting average FICA and taxes, this averages monthly $800-$900 net.

Common housing rentals range around $400 per month.

Along with basic utility bills and needs such as food and transportation -- add the luxuries of telephone, cable and Internet connection -- comfortable living is going to cost, at a minimum, $1,000 per month. It is not surprising that more and more people are losing their secure housing because of this continued imbalance between wages and cost of living.

Ogden's Good Landlord incentives have removed the ability to find reasonable housing and take occupancy the same day, so the only alternative to many is to take temporary housing in one of the local motels. The current weekly rate at any of the five motels along Washington Boulevard is between $150 and $180 per week. The employee working that $7 per hour job ends up giving all the paycheck to housing, with little to none left to find an apartment in the Ogden area that does not require a month's pay just to move in.

A reasonable first instinct may be to mention St. Anne's and the Rescue Mission, or to take advantage of the subsidized housing opportunities in this area. The shelters for those finding themselves between residences are quite limited in space, and if a person is already working a regular 40-hour work week, shelter life can be a mentally and physically demoralizing situation. Subsidized housing is available, but so limited there is at every location a three- to five-month waiting list. Since Ogden city instigated its ruling limiting long-term motel occupancy, secure housing becomes less and less obtainable.

Motel life is just one step up from shelter life, and those forced into it for any reason are subject to living conditions far below building and health code standards -- which no one, from government officials to property owners, seems to care about amending. Motel owners are not regulated by the Fair Housing Act, and have the authority to take one's entire paycheck, then for any reason tell the tenant to leave at any hour of any day. While rumors have existed for many years about the Washington Boulevard motels breeding elements of crime and drugs, the past five years have seen this environment change as more working people and retirees are just trying to keep a roof over their heads.

This situation is rapidly becoming a reality for an alarming number of Ogden residents. Anyone working within the charitable organizations (including Workforce Services) can verify the need for realistic low-income assistance is more than the limited resources available. As the "Renaissance" project of Ogden city expands, so too will this desperate housing situation. Low-income people currently living within its perimeters (between Washington and Wall, from 21st to 18th streets) will be displaced by the onset of summer (including one 96-room motel).

It will soon be the only recourse left for low-income people to take one more paycheck, quit the existing jobs and move to another area. It seems the partnership between Ogden city government and rental property owners, coupled with the hardness of charities unable to offer assistance for so many in need, people earning nothing to $7 an hour are just not wanted here. In the process of rebuilding, a great many of Ogden's citizens are not being served, denied affordability to the most basic of life's needs, and seemingly being encouraged to leave. It is a shameful form of financial genocide no one seems to want to face.

Pearson has lived in three different Ogden motels over the past three and a half years.


from Ogden Standard-Examiner, Top of Utah Voices, March 21, 2007



Dwarf Designs 1998-2009