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A study says skyrocketing housing costs put the squeeze on Utah renters

Downtown Salt Lake City skyscrapers.

The average cost of keeping a roof over your head in Utah's metro areas is a lot more than it used to be - if you're renting. A recent University of Utah study found that rental prices in the state's major cities increased faster in the past two years than they did over the entire prior decade. Dejan Eskic, a research fellow at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, said rising home prices have pushed many Utahns into the rental market.

“Prior to COVID, about 49% of households statewide could not qualify for the median-priced home. Where at the end of the second quarter this year, they were up to 78%," Eskic said.

Eskic said between 2010 and 2020, rental rates in the Salt Lake City area increased by about 2.5 percent a year. But in the last two years, those rates jumped by about 10.5 percent per year. That means a two-bedroom apartment that cost 983 dollars a month in 2010 now costs more than 16 hundred dollars, a 64 percent increase.

Tara Rollins with the Utah Housing Coalition says the prevalence of national corporate landlords in Utah has changed the nature of the rental market.

“Housing is no longer just a shelter or an investment for a Mom and Pop. It is a portfolio. And so every year, that portfolio has to perform better and better and better," Rollins said.

Rollins says policymakers need to develop programs to assist Utahns. It would also help to create incentives that bring more locally-based investors into the rental market.

“I'm all about stabilizing people in their housing. Because right now, at this point, if you have a roof over your head, you really want to keep that roof over your head," Rollins said.