There is no one singular solution to Utah’s Housing Crisis. Rather, the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute has identified five “best practices” for meeting the housing affordability challenge in Utah. This article will describe how zoning changes are a necessary part of all other best practices, as they control what types of housing are built and where.
If you’ve ever built a house, chances are good that you’ve had to deal with land use regulations, also known as zoning. Zoning refers to the urban planning method that helps facilitate the proper use of land for different purposes. Think of it like the floor plan of your house: in the same manner that a floor plan indicates each room of a home, a city’s zoning laws divide the land in the city into separate areas or zones.
While land use regulations are extremely important to a community’s layout, they are often outdated, which can have detrimental effects on housing affordability in that area. For example, recent housing preferences have moved toward multifamily focusing such as townhomes, twin homes, and apartments. Yet, current zoning ordinances do not reflect the shift in preferences to higher-density, more affordable housing. Without changes to those regulations, affordable housing won’t be able to keep up with increasing demand.
What does that mean for Utah’s current housing crisis? Land use regulations control what type of housing gets built, where it gets built, and its affordability. That means that without accommodative land use regulations, there is little chance a city’s housing policies can influence prices, provide diverse housing types, or meet changes in homebuyer’s preferences. In other words, without zoning changes, all other possible solutions to the housing crisis are impossible to implement.
The success of all other housing solutions depend on revisions or adaptations in existing zoning ordinances. Pursuing other measures to address housing affordability will likely require conditional use permits and at least some minor changes in the zoning ordinances. Learn more about your city’s land use regulations, and push for changes that benefit Utah’s housing market.
As businesses, you can play a role. We will be sharing videos from trusted community partners that we encourage you to share widely — along with articles and blog posts with vital information on the housing crisis each Utahn now faces. Together, we will work to close the gap and ensure that we — and our children and grandchildren — can continue to access safe and affordable housing in our great state.
*If you would like to share your story of how the housing crisis is affecting your business, please reach out to Ginger Chinn, Vice President of Public Policy at firstname.lastname@example.org.