In our last email, we explained what Utah’s Housing Gap is and how for the first time in 40 years, more Utahns are in need of a home than there are homes available. While we know this gap is likely to continue expanding in the next few years, there are a few important details to understand how Utah got to this point. One of the largest factors is how Utah’s economy affects the Housing Gap and what this has to do with you.

Since 2010, Utah has had the fastest growing economy in the United States. Utah’s growth means we have lower unemployment and improved public services, among many other benefits. Positive economic growth often brings diverse amenities, such as new stores and restaurants, in addition to more local job opportunities. However, this growth also provides a strong demand for housing, which has increased housing prices. Since 2005, median home prices have increased from $173,000 to $305,700 in 2017. Overall, the median home price increased by 43 percent.

Higher increasing housing prices in Utah will threaten our cost of living, economic prosperity and quality of life. According to Under One Roof Seattle, housing availability and costs are two of the top factors that businesses consider when establishing a location. In other parts of the country, people and businesses are leaving communities like Seattle, Portland and the Bay Area, where housing is no longer affordable. In the past, the cost of living has been a competitive advantage for Utah’s economic development. However, Utah’s home prices are 20 percent higher than cities like Boise, Las Vegas and Phoenix; some of our top competitors in attracting new jobs and businesses. While our housing gap may deter future economic growth, it can also harm current businesses that operate within Utah. Currently, the majority of Utah’s growth comes from within the state. Without ample housing for employees, local businesses may choose to relocate.

While Utah’s growing economy affects the Housing Gap, it also affects you on a personal level. Utah needs housing options for every stage in life. Affordable housing does not just impact low-income families, it affects every industry and every profession. It affects your children and your grandchildren. One in eight Utah households are severely cost burdened, paying 50 percent or more of their income on housing. In the next several years, the typical Utah family will spend nearly 50 percent of its income on housing if current trends persist.

Currently, even moderate-income families are finding that living in neighborhoods with desirable schools is becoming increasingly unattainable. High housing costs have also prevented many millennials from living independently. On the other end of the spectrum, an aging population will drive up demand for a variety of housing options. When Utah’s population increases to just under six million in the next 50 years, can your children afford to remain in Utah? Will our older demographics be able to afford a place to live?

How do you keep your community strong while it’s still growing? Start saying yes to well-planned growth to ensure that all Utahns can continue to afford to live in Utah. You can preserve your community character while saying yes to well-planned growth. Talk with your friends and family about supporting local businesses or leading a beautification project in your neighborhood.

Stay tuned for our next email, where we will discuss more about how Utah’s Housing Gap affects you on a personal level.