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Affordable Housing Update: “Is This Really Gonna Work?”




This was the tagline of a recent presentation on the legislation passed during the recent session regarding Affordable Housing. The answer? Time will tell.


We have all read the myriad articles discussing the challenges of affordable housing not only in Utah but the entire country. This is not just a Utah or Ivins problem, but that doesn’t mean we can't work to address or solve it here in Ivins.


Previously, our councilman Mike Scott provided information regarding the Affordable Housing Task Force implemented by Mayor Hart to help find solutions in Ivins. My goal here is to provide some information on the legislation passed to help and what the Task Force is working on. I will state clearly that we don’t have all the answers here, so I hope you are not expecting them…yet. As the newly appointed Senior Advisor for Housing, Steve Waldrip, stated, “This didn’t happen overnight, and it will take a while, requiring everyone to chip in and do hard things.”


First things first, the legislature is now using the term “Affordable Housing” instead of several other terms often attributed, so that is the term we will use going forward.


The Governor, who advocated for high-density housing in 2022, has now redirected the focus to 'First-Time' Starter homes. This strategy shift is more in tune with the housing preferences of Ivins residents, compared to the 'Stack and Pack' density previously proposed or the vast expanses of 'gray' behind Harmons.


The idea is that with a small starter home, a person can begin to create wealth and build equity over time to grow financially into a larger home as part of the American dream.


The State passed seven key bills to help focus on a three-pronged approach. These bills are designed to:

  • Assist with simplifying the process.

  • Providing financing options for builders to obtain financing to offset lower profitability.

  • Provide options for new housing types.

Even with all these possible tools to help, the challenge in Ivins is that we are still dependent on a builder's desire to build smaller homes on smaller lots for affordability. We do not own any land and respect property rights, so we cannot mandate what a builder/developer build.


So, what defines affordable? The previous formula utilized was 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI). Obviously, interest rates and other market conditions can affect this. Now, 60% of AMI is being offered as the measure we should use for essential workers. Another formula is the price of the home divided by income. Anything above a five is not affordable.

 


The Affordable Housing Task Force is working on the following priorities:

  • Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) can be included or added to homes, detached or attached. These rental units can help obtain financing based on their rental income potential or assist with existing mortgages. The Planning Commission is finalizing the regulations for their use.

  • Land Trust. We know the cost of land is high in Ivins. However, affordability is more attainable if we remove that cost from the equation. The land is placed into a trust and leased while the home is still owned and can build equity.  SITLA has modified its mission to include affordable housing.  As Ivins doesn’t own any land, the mayor is in discussion for a piece of this land to be placed in trust.

  • Creation of a Housing Authority for deed restriction. Over 30% of all new construction in Utah has been bought by corporate ownership. To protect against this and nightly rentals, a deed restriction can be placed on specified homes to ensure owner occupancy. This can be a short or permanent requirement. The home can still be sold, but again, owner occupancy stays the rule. The Housing Authority will determine the formula for application and affordability.

  • “Outside the Box” options. The task force is exploring options for building. Many of us have only lived in a “stick and frame” home and now there are a variety of other possibilities that can be considered for starter homes. We also have to adjust the mindset of smaller homes on smaller lots to get to affordability. At a conference last week, Steve Waldrip stated, “People can no longer afford a 3-bedroom 2 car garage with an RV pad; we have to think back to post WW2 when we built 2 bedrooms with a carport or maybe you added a garage later.” We also must ensure that alternate building methods are sustainable, long-term, and insurable.

So, “Is this Going to Work?” As previously stated, it didn’t happen overnight and isn’t going to be solved in short order either, but we have a great group on our task force, including residents, legal specialists, Planning Commission members, an architect, and a land trust specialist, to help steer us in the right direction.


We must also keep in mind that “getting the house” is only one piece of the pie. All our first-time homeowners also need to be preparing for:

  • Down Payment of 10%-20%.

  • Property Taxes: While Ivins currently has a low property tax rate, the state, county, and schools have higher rates.

  • Insurance: Homeowners insurance has increased by 30% to 100% over the past two years and likely will not come back down.

  • Utilities: Water, sewage, electricity, trash, just name the major expenses.


There will be future updates as we continue to explore options.

 

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Doug Clifford
Doug Clifford
30. Apr.

Sharon, thanks for the update. This is a good overview of the real problems associated with housing in Utah. Unfortunately, most Utahans have a mindset that doesn't include a modest "starter home", and the recent generations of new families expects to have housing similar to what they experienced as children in mostly afluent neighborhoods. Also, we are experiencing a generation of families that have a sizable financial inheritance from their families, which has never before had such an impact on young families.

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