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The Ripple Effect: How Utah’s Housing Affordability Impacts Our Communities

Utah housing affordability

You’ve probably heard about the recent volatility in Utah’s housing market, but do you know the impact it’s having on our communities? Housing in Utah is less affordable than ever before, according to a new report, State of the State's Housing Market, 2022-2024, from the University of Utah's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. 

In a recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune about this report, senior analysts at Gardner classify Utah housing as "severely unaffordable" and don't expect that to improve in the next several years. This means a housing shortage that not only affects homeowners now, it could make it difficult for upcoming generations to own a home.

That's why Habitat for Humanity's efforts to build affordable housing in affected areas is more important than ever. By helping families to secure safe, stable housing through our homeownership program, we’re addressing Utah housing affordability issues by giving working members of our community the skills to improve their lives and set up their children for a brighter future.

The Current State of the Utah Housing Market

The COVID-19 pandemic had a big effect on Utah housing affordability, causing swings in housing prices, rental costs and new construction. And now, we face a rise in home prices and mortgage rates alongside a drop in building permits, which leaves us with a housing shortage. Many Utahns are unable to find a home to purchase or to afford the home options available on the market, according to Gardner. 

Utah housing affordability is not much easier for renters. According to the study, high interest rates and inflated housing prices will keep most of those folks from purchasing a home while they face a rental market with rising rental costs and lower vacancy.

The housing shortage has had a significant impact in Summit and Wasatch counties, the two most expensive counties for housing in Utah, both with a median home price above $1 million, according to the study. And the experts at Gardner expect home prices in these counties, as well as the rest of Utah, to continue to climb steadily.

Homeownership Benefits Families and Their Communities

Securing a stable, affordable home leads to several positive outcomes, both for the homeowners and their surrounding community. Habitat has found that in addition to contributing to a family’s health, wealth and well-being, homeownership helps them start businesses in the area and contribute to their local economies.

Children especially benefit from affordable long-term housing. Kids who aren’t burdened with housing insecurity are more likely to perform better in school and have higher life goals. And as they see how their parents improve their circumstances, they learn valuable life skills that shape their own future.

How Habitat for Humanity Fills the Gap in Utah Housing Affordability

Habitat answers the need for affordable housing in the Utah housing market with a proven homeownership model that builds energy-efficient homes for working members of the community. Acting as both the builder and mortgage lender for homeowners in the program, Habitat enables families in Summit and Wasatch counties to continue to work and live here.

Habitat gives people a hand up, not a hand out, by selecting homeowners based on three main criteria:

  1. Are they living in substandard living conditions, in homes that are unsafe or too small for their needs?
  2. Can they pay an affordable mortgage? Homeowners need to have acceptable credit and a stable monthly income between 30% and 80% of the median income in the county.
  3. Are they willing to partner with Habitat to build their own home? Homeowners must put in 200 hours of “sweat equity” to build their new home and other Habitat homes. They can also take courses in personal finance and home maintenance to help them be successful long-term in managing their expenses and home repairs.

Support Habitat for Humanity’s Homeownership Initiatives

As Utah’s housing affordability affects a growing number of people in our community, you can make a difference. We are a non-profit organization that relies on tax-deductive donations to support our activities to improve the lives of people in Summit and Wasatch counties. Learn more about our homeownership program and consider volunteering with us or making a donation.

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