Cache County addresses housing crisis in new report
Cache County Executive David Zook formed a task force to look at the housing crisis in Cache Valley and to try and find solutions to a housing market that many people cannot afford.
“So there have been only a few houses available for sale. It's come up a little bit recently. However, other factors have changed in the recent past that have also affected attainability and affordability, such as the increase in mortgage rates,” said Zook.
The report states that housing prices had increased from eight to ten percent in 2020, to eighteen percent in 2021.
“Homeownership is one of the most important aspects of American life. And it's more importantly, something that builds community. We have a major problem with that right now, because it has gotten so expensive for someone to be able to buy a home.
Zook said the task force found that less than 25% of residents can afford to buy a house in the community.
“That's not a sustainable community. We need to find ways to make housing more attainable for our residents, if more than 75% of our residents can't afford to buy a home. That's going to affect many aspects of our community, including, specifically our economy.”
The United Van Lines study of population migration says that Utah is a “balanced” state, which means that on average, the same amount of families are moving in as they are moving out. So why the high demand for housing? Due to Utah’s culture of supporting larger families, Utah has the highest birth rate in the US, and Cache County has the fourth youngest population in the country, according to the US Census.
“85% of our growth is from our own children, our own grandchildren, its internal growth. And especially when we look at the solutions to our housing situation, because one of the things that taskforce pointed out was that our community, and then our elected officials, as a reflection of the communities they represent, are hesitant sometimes to make policy changes that would support additional housing, because they don't want those outsiders coming in.”
As Utah’s culture of supporting large families continues, those children will look for a place to move out, and with other families moving in, this creates a high demand for housing, which Zook says is the main factor contributing to the housing crisis. As the demand increases, so do housing prices. There are also supply chain issues. It’s taking longer to get some materials from overseas, delaying construction. Zook said one of the downsides of not being able to grow the community is companies and businesses will not be able to attract employees so, they might be forced to take their job expansion outside of the valley.
The task force has identified some solutions. Some of them are on the federal level, such as decreasing the supply chain issues and controlling inflation. Solutions on the state level include limiting what cities and counties do with their zoning, but there is still a more drastic solution Zook and his task force have identified.
“One specific recommendation was that they limit local referendums. That indicates a significant issue. But it's unfortunate that it's gotten to this point where a task force is recommending extreme action, like the state coming in and telling people what they can and cannot have in their community. But the only reason that's happening is because too many communities are not allowing growth, they're not allowing growth to happen. And that's causing a problem that's causing a problem in our community, because there's not enough housing.”
Zook said we need to be proactive in how the community grows like finding solutions that are sustainable and welcoming to newcomers.