An Affordable Cost of Living, with Housing Options for Everyone
Finding a home in the right price range and location is out of reach for many. Our Wasatch Front valleys are filling up, and as we grow, it is more and more difficult to find a home we can afford close to jobs, shopping, and entertainment. We have needs for water, transportation, and other infrastructure that cost billions of dollars. And many people spend a large portion of their incomes on transportation, including car payments and gas. Will we and our children and grandchildren be able to afford to live here in the coming decades?
In the late 1990s, when Envision Utah did its first large visioning effort, 71% of our Greater Wasatch Area housing units were single family dwellings on lots, and the average lot size was almost a third of an acre. Many of those who couldn't afford a large home on a large lot—like our police officers, firefighters, and teachers, as well as those just beginning their careers—just couldn't find desirable housing in a good neighborhood that's close to work. Since that time, our housing supply has shifted so that most communities now include townhouses, apartments, and homes on smaller lots. Now, the average lot size on the Wasatch Front has declined 22%, to a quarter of an acre, and it continues to fall.
This change has been driven by the market—and by changing our zoning laws to allow the market to work. Those who want and can afford a large home on a large lot can still buy one, but there are more options for others. Smaller lots also mean less water is used for outdoor watering; pipes and roads don't have to stretch as far, which saves money; and people don't have to live as far from work, which means our air is cleaner and we don't have to spend as much on transportation.
Still, there are many people who can't afford a decent place to live, and projections are that housing and transportation costs are only going to increase, pricing more and more people out of the homes they want. As we add another 2.5 million people by 2050, we will need to figure out how we can ensure there are good housing options for people of a variety of life stages and incomes. And if we can put those homes near work and near public transportation, we can also reduce household transportation costs and improve air quality. That way we can all afford a high quality of life, and our children and grandchildren can afford to raise a family here in Utah without having to move somewhere else.