There are many homeowners who could not afford their house if they were to be looking to buy right now.
Utah Rep. Val Potter, R- North Logan, shared this concept with a room of Cache Valley residents recently and said that he would be included among those homeowners as well.
“First accept the fact that there is a problem,” said Potter who is co-chair of the commission for affordable housing, as he addressed a question about how the community can get involved. “The problem is that wages haven’t gone up at the same rate as housing. It is something that is affecting a large swath of the population. Something has to be done.”
What exactly needs to be done has been the topic of many conversations in Cache Valley over the past couple weeks.
Last year, the legislature passed a bill that requires cities to follow certain steps and ultimately open more housing options within their boundaries, and Potter said that has provided more opportunities and has been a step in the right direction. However, there is still more to be done.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Anderegg and Rep. Potter is being discussed at the state capitol. The bill is a $35.3 million proposal to promote construction of affordable homes and help families struggling to pay rent.
“This bill comes at the problem in a little different way as we look at ways to help developers finance projects to make them more affordable for the moderate- to low-income people,” Potter said.
Realtors and builders along with county and city officials and several others are involved in the commission to find ways to produce reasonably priced housing.
Potter acknowledged that many people don’t think the government should get involved in this, but he said good can come from working together and looking at the problem from all angles.
During a Cache Valley Chamber of Commerce Legislative Affairs Committee meeting last week, committee members discussed the many different parts of this issue and tried to narrow down possible solutions.
“We have a growing problem in the valley with homelessness and a lot of it is driven by affordability and availability of housing,” said Paul Davis, a committee member. “And it is just going to get worse, based on all of the projections I am seeing.”
The most recent point-in-time count recorded 66 homeless people living in the valley. According to Davis, the survey asks for the last mailing address and revealed that most of them have lost their home due to their inability to keep up with the payments.
According to the Utah Association of Realtors, the median price of a home in Cache County is over $247,000 as of 2018, and surrounding counties are showing similar numbers.
“No amount of money that the government throws at the problem is going to solve it,” Davis said. “There has to be some reason that developers would build smaller homes, more affordable homes.”
S.B. 39 addresses the incentives in the form of nearly $15 million that would go toward crucial loans to help developers of affordable housing build up to 2,300 apartments for low-income tenants through the state-managed Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund.
To grapple with the growing rate of homelessness, the bill outlines $15 million that would go toward rental assistance for somewhere in the range of 3,000 families.
Logan School District Superintendent Frank Schofield noted that the other issue with affordable housing is that it translates to smaller homes.
“What we have seen in Logan is that it turns into families staying in one location for a shorter amount of time and then moving,” Schofield said. “The housing realities of Logan city have a direct impact on how long families stay in Logan city, which impacts the feel of the community, neighborhood, investment in local politics, etc.”
Schofield said that it is becoming less common for young families to be able to afford single-family homes, and a developer can’t make it affordable for those families without losing profit.
Davis said the other issue is that some neighborhoods balk at the idea of more growth because it may change zoning laws and create more traffic.
While growth may seem necessary to some , where that growth takes place also needs to be considered.
Cache County Executive Craig Buttars said that it doesn’t make sense to pave over all of the good agricultural land because it is an asset to the community.
“I hope that we can get our cities to do some interdevelopment and change some lot sizes,” Buttars said.
The Senate bill addresses many, but not all, of the concerns discussed by community members, and on Saturday morning at the weekly Cache Valley legislator’s meeting, Sen. Sandall offered some suggestions for people wanting to get involved in the process.
“If you want your city to look a certain way, get involved in city government, go to the planning commission, to the city councils,” said Sen. Sandall, who has been working on the commission with Potter. “We are not going to solve it from the top down. We will solve it working both ways.”
Cache Valley legislators will be hosting town hall meetings every Saturday morning during the 2020 Legislative General Session. The meetings will go from 7:30-9 a.m. at the Historic Cache County Courthouse, 199 N. Main St., Logan.