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Sugar House Journal

Salt Lake Chamber hopes to raise awareness about Utah’s housing situation

Jul 30, 2018 15h47 ● By Travis Barton

The limitations of the Wasatch Front geography means there’s not much more room for sprawl, so new Utah housing developments are going to have to get creative. (Justin Adams/City Journals)

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

“Anytime a developer comes in with a plan that involves high-density housing, it’s like a four-letter word,” said Draper Mayor Troy Walker during a meeting of Draper officials and representatives from the Salt Lake Chamber. 

The meeting was the second of many meetings the Salt Lake Chamber hopes to conduct with every city council along the Wasatch Front in order to discuss the topic of housing affordability. 

“Recently we’ve had a lot of business owners coming to us and saying, ‘Our employees are struggling to find housing,’” explained Abby Osborne, the chamber’s vice president of government relations. 

The Salt Lake Chamber, a business association that operates throughout the state, then partnered with the Kem C. Gardner Institute to produce a report on housing affordability, released earlier this year. 

“What we found in the report was quite alarming. For the first time we have more households than household units,” said Osborne. “That’s a big component of why you’re seeing these skyrocketing prices. It’s just supply and demand.” 

While there are factors that limit what state and local governments can do about housing prices — for example, the state can’t do anything about rising material costs or the fact that the opportunity for further “sprawl” is limited by the Wasatch corridor’s geography — the Salt Lake Chamber is on a mission to let governments and individuals know what they can do. 

“We’re just starting a dialogue with the city councils,” Osborne told the City Journals. “We’re asking them, ‘What do you think about this issue? Would you consider smaller lot sizes? Why are you opposed to higher density housing?” 

Osborne pointed to the Daybreak community in South Jordan and Holladay’s still-in-the-works Holladay Quarter development as examples of cities using creative zoning policies to create more housing in a smart way. 

However, the opposition to new housing efforts is much more likely to come from residents, not local governments, according to Osborne. “We have a lot of NIMBYism in Utah,” she said, referring to an acronym that stands for “Not In My Backyard.” 

That can be seen with the case of the Holladay Quarter, where community groups formed to fight against the development. 

Part of the Salt Lake Chamber’s mission will include a “full-blown media campaign” this fall to educate people about the nuances of the housing affordability issue. Osborne said she hopes the campaign will start to remove the stigmas and misunderstandings that people have about new housing developments. 

For example, one misconception people have is that most of our growth is coming from out-of-state. “Not true,” said Osborne. “It is us, having children who want to stay here and live here because of our quality of life.” 

“I think the unknown is fearful for people,” she said. “They have this perception of how they want to raise their large families on big pieces of property. But when those kids grow up, where are they going to live? If these trends continue, there won’t be enough homes for the people that want to live here.”

Representatives from the Salt Lake Chamber will be visiting with the following cities at each municipality’s city hall in the coming weeks and months, with more to be scheduled.

North Ogden - August 14 @ 6 p.m.

SLC -  August 21 @ 3 p.m.

West Jordan - August 22 @ 6 p.m.

Ogden -  August 28 @ 6 p.m.

Springville - September 4 @ 5:30 p.m.

Woods Cross - September 4 @ 6:30 p.m.

Bountiful - September 11 @ 6 p.m.

Pleasant Grove - September 18 @ 5 p.m.

Lindon - September 18 @ 7 p.m.

Hurricane - September 20 @ 6 p.m.

South Jordan - October 2 @ 4:30 p.m.

West Bountiful -  October 2 @ 7:30 p.m.

Sandy - October 9 @ 5:30 p.m.

Providence - October 9 @ 6 p.m.