Shawn Milne’s position as the economic developer for Cache, Rich, and Box Elder counties has granted him a unique perspective on the economy’s need for affordable housing.
Without it, he said, Utah’s economy will lose its top spot in the national ranking, a position U.S. News & World Report determined it had in July of last year.
“If we can’t house workers, these businesses that we recruit to come here, or that are homegrown and start here and then grow really big,” Milne explained, “they’re going to leave and go somewhere else and other states are going to recruit our top talent.”
Milne is far from the only economist with these concerns.
Per state legislation passed last year, certain municipalities in Utah are required to adopt plans to implement moderate income housing into their general plans.
The requirement applies to several municipalities in Cache Valley, including Logan, Smithfield, Nibley, Providence, North Logan and Cache County.
The Herald Journal published an article about these municipalities’ plans Wednesday.
While Milne believes jurisdictions’ state required moderate income housing plans can be effective, he sees a need for complimentary measures to ensure the plans and implementation strategies amount to more than rubber stamps.
He listed two bills currently being considered by state congress that he thinks have the potential to help. The first, S.B. 199 “disallows referral of a referendum to voters for a land use law that passed by a two-thirds vote of the local legislative body.” The second, S.B. 174, dictates municipalities must pay a daily fee of $250 if their moderate income housing report fails to meet certain standards.
The money paid will go towards the state’s Olene Walker Housing Fund, an account that, according to Utah’s Workforce Services website, develops “housing that is affordable for very low-income, low-income and moderate-income persons.”
S.B. 199, he said, will allow for council members and commissioners to work with developers and home builders to rezone land for moderate income housing without needing to worry the effort will be in vain.
In November 2021, a referendum H.B. 199 would have prevented passed in Providence, forcing a home building company to either abandon their project or start the rezone process anew.
S.B. 174, meanwhile, will provide a penalty for municipalities that fail to meet moderate income housing plan requirements.
“Two different tools for two different kind of willing, or unwilling partners,” Milne said.
S.B. 174 passed in the senate and is currently being evaluated by the House Rules Committee. S.B. 199 has been read twice in the House, and is slated for its third.
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