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Increasing Housing Crisis in Utah

As young people, newly settling into our careers, my partner and I were excited to start the home buying process in Boise, Idaho, one of Salt Lake’s closest neighbors. Our excitement quickly turned to frustration as we confronted the lack of inventory of homes in our price range. When we finally started submitting offers, we were consistently outbid by investors offering thousands of dollars over asking and waiving both appraisals and inspections.

Thousands of our young peers in cities across the West are living the same story. According to the Salt Lake Board of Realtors, the median price of a single-family home in Salt Lake County hit $580,000 last month. In 2015, this value reached an “all-time-high” of just $272,000. In other words, housing prices have more than doubled in less than seven years. 

The dramatic increase in housing demand is driven by many factors, but one is often ignored: fertility rates.

Although net migration has certainly contributed to Utah’s recent population growth, the Mountain West states’ consistently high fertility rates have resulted in an overly large cohort of young people hoping to become first-time homebuyers. These demographic trends, coupled with other factors driving up the cost of housing, such as supply chain woes, have made home buying nearly impossible for normal people. 

Obviously many would respond here: well, just keep growing, and build more houses! And yes, improving access to affordable (and hopefully condensed!) Housing will help alleviate the pressure on our housing market in the short term. But Utah’s (and Idaho’s) resources are finite. Three of the Salt Lake Valley’s most important resources – land, water, and clean air – are already overstretched and over-promised. As our generation ages, we must collectively acknowledge the pressure our children will put on Utah’s environment and housing market, and we must make our family planning decisions accordingly.

housing in Utah

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