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Affordable Housing; One Size Fits All?

Next Door Post April 4, 2023

I am a consumer…a shopper, I love to shop! I am retired now but when I was working, one of the motivators for me each day was the potential to shop. So, I know sizes and I can assure you on great authority, one size does not fit all!

We recently held the Housing Talk About in Ivins to talk about the housing market and the all elusive attainable/ affordable housing. First, the words keep changing. Why? Because affordable housing seems to be either a negative use or a myth (a direct quote from our Mayor). So, they came up with attainable. This gives hope that someday one can attain that goal of becoming a homeowner. The speakers varied from Representative Neil Walter to Shirlayne Quayle of Housing Action Coalition to an architect and historian.

The meeting might have as well been called “Competing Interests” as this was the real topic of discussion meaning how do we manage property rights, the community’s rights and what the state wants us to accomplish. This is where the challenges begin. The State has sent mandates to all cities that they must meet these specific attainable housing goals and by a certain date or they will be fined $250.00 a day and /or lose state funding. (This is my loose understanding and may not be exact). So, the State is treating all cities the same with the same requirements to meet the attainable housing standards they have set. (I recall there was one section that gave you a choice of five goals to meet – that was the only ability to customize.) So again, One Size Fits All.

Only One Size Does Not Fit All!

One needs only to look at Washington County to see the vast difference between the cities in terms of how they can accommodate to meet the goals. Let’s look at Ivins and some key facts:

Attainable housing should be located near active transit sites. This is for those that may not own a car or want to save on gas or the environment. (Ivins doesn’t have an active transit center nor are we near one.)

Attainable housing should be located near active infrastructure. Shopping, daycare, and jobs that have easy access are a few examples. (Ivins doesn’t have an active infrastructure. It would take years for this to be built.) What we heard at the Housing Talk About are some creative solutions – but they also still raise an array of questions.

Build more attractive higher-density apartments/condos/townhomes that meet the needs for attainable housing and fit better into the communities. They showed some great examples at the meeting but didn’t share rents or sale prices. The question now becomes, will the

builder/developer spend the money to do this, as it is more expensive than building a box (like behind Harmons).

Land Trust option talks about the land going into a trust, so the homeowner buys the home, but doesn’t own the land – thus lowering the cost to make them more affordable. A very viable option…but where does this land come from? Who will “donate” the land? Developers? SITLA?

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are an option. This is where homeowners can place a

freestanding small dwelling on their property for long-term rental (that is a very simplified

explanation) Again, this a very viable option not to be discounted. The homeowner would in

some cases need to lay a foundation (they don’t all require one) but they do all require

plumbing and electricity that the property owner would have to complete. This goal is for it to be rented long-term. Will it be? What ordinances or laws will need to be put in place for this to be insured? What about rental control – what will keep some homeowners from charging higher rents?

Tiny Homes are an up-and-coming option. There are some adorable examples of these! There is still the cost of the land that must be considered and the need for a developer to carve out land in developments to accommodate these.

Finally, there is “The Great and Powerful Oz” as I refer to them also known as SITLA. Created to make a profit from land granted when Utah became a state for education but sadly doing nothing for the educators, administrators and all those who work in our schools or their families, instead building hundreds of Short-Term Rentals. They hide behind the curtain with no accountability to the people who make education happen or to the severe water crisis.

In considering the above information what needs to come first? The affordable housing component or the infrastructure component? Small cities such as Ivins cannot support their own regional hospital or move any closer to I-15. With only 10.3 square miles of land and not all of it developable, how attractive is Ivins to those who do want an affordable place to live, work, shop and have easily accessible medical facilities? One size trying to fit all, but Ivins is a size 2 compared to St George as a size 12 and Hurricane as a size 10!

In my years in leadership roles we always had a recurring mantra: ” Control the Controllables” So let’s visit what we can’t control in Ivins.

Interest rates

Cost of land

Cost of building supplies


Growth of population since Covid especially

Wages – apparently Southern Utah’s are significantly lower.

All of these add an additional burden on a community from building attainable housing especially here in Ivins where we have limited room compared to some surrounding cities, yet we are all being held to the same requirements and same threats from the State leadership. There are several other challenges in play for those looking for attainable housing such as student loans, car payments or credit card debt all of which present a challenge for saving towards a down payment and closing costs which can be steep. There are resources available to help in these areas too, but it takes some digging and patience.

Most residents of Ivins understand and support the need for attainable housing, but it seems the state needs to do a better job of acknowledging that “one size does not fit all” and they need to come up with ideas/solutions/guidelines that address the realities and restrictions of each city based on geographical size, population and infrastructure. In doing so Attainable housing will become a successful and vibrant component of all cities.

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