Besides the NBA finals and your brackets, the two hottest topics these days are affordable housing and tiny homes. First, affordable housing is really two things…what you think you can pay for a roof over your head, and what the government thinks you can/should be able to afford.
The Housing Authority of the County of Salt Lake warns that: “Section 8 housing scams prey on home-seekers and use websites that look like registration sites for Section 8 waiting list lotteries. They take “registration fee” money, personal information and offer a chance to register for the real lottery-since these hopefuls usually don’t know they’ve been scammed until the real waiting list is closed.” Guess what? Salt Lake City AND Salt Lake County have both closed their waiting lists for Section 8 housing. There aren’t any units available for rent.
One new developer here in Salt Lake has put up the Greenprint Apartments on 800 South and 200 West. These micro-unit apartments are 250-350 sq. ft (think hotel room size) and work great for minimalists and rent for $700-800 per month. This is the cheapest new product I have been able to find anywhere in Utah. Salt Lake City does not require developers of rental buildings to make a percentage of the units affordable, but as a builder you can get certain tax incentives to include some in your overall project. Our rental housing inventory in the state is estimated to be down 43-45,000 housing units, and author James Woods recently stated, “For the first time in 40 years, the increase in households in Utah exceeds the number of new housing units.” St. George reports less than a 1% vacancy rate-yike! Low inventory/high rents is a fact in the majority of larger cities in the United States and why we’re seeing more homeless camping in tents and in boxes along the main roads and around shelters.
Second, so why not get a tiny home? Well, zoning wise, they aren’t allowed in most places in the Salt Lake Valley. You can put one in a trailer park, but have to pay $600-800 a month for the rental pad underneath the home. Affordable lots are a thing of the past, with land values going for $65-300,000 per ¼ acre along the Wasatch Front. Portland, Oregon has come up with a great idea, though. “A Place for You” is a new experiment where the city will put a 200 sq. ft. modular unit in your back yard for 5 years. You agree to have it put in your yard and the adult and one or two kids who occupy the place will be under strict rules while living there to keep the place in order, not do illegal drugs, adhere to noise ordinances, etc. After 5 years you get to keep the structure and use it as an accessory dwelling/rental. Win/win!
Salt Lake City and County own a ton of land, which leads me to wonder, why not tiny home villages here subsidized by our tax dollars?
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You might be too young to know the reference of ‘Shangri-La’ unless you were a Lit major or an old movie buff. Shangri-La is a mythical place in the mountains of Tibet imagined by James Hilton in his 1933 novel, Lost Horizon. It was perfect paradise cut off from the world, with no violence, no protests, no famines. Many Tibetans today believe it does exist, and even the present Dalai Lama thinks it may be hidden in one astral plain or another. Bali Hai is a real place (mountain in Hawaii) but also a mythical island in the South Pacific where only good things happen. Glocca Morra is a dreamy but fake place in the British Isles, probably Ireland, where everyone is in love and dances the day away. All three places are in great old movies-check ‘em out if you want to live in a perfect world for a minute.
Utah is becoming for some the paradise only Mormons could envision so long ago when Joseph Smith told his fold to head west. For today’s techies, Salt Lake City has just been named #8 on the REALTOR.com list of potential Silicon Valley 2.0 Cities. That list looks at other cities known for big tech companies and trends within the geographic locations and industries, and it’s finding that workers in many traditional tech locales are being priced out of housing and are seeking better areas to live throughout America…and we’re looking good in their eyes. That research is backed up by another report from SmartAsset, a financial tech company that studies what markets are best home buyers polled in their survey. Salt Lake County ranked among the best places in their recent report. DK Eyewitness Travel this month named Salt Lake City #5 and Provo #16 in their list of the ’20 Best U.S. Cities for Making a Fresh Start’. And for senior citizens our fine state ranks #2 among all the states with the lowest proportion of ‘senior isolation’, with 22.5% of seniors living alone (as opposed to places like North Dakota with 32% of seniors living alone). This is according to seniorcare.com.
For those of us already living in the Beehive State, the garden of Eden is still a pretty idyllic place to live, yes? The skiing is fantastic, the red rocks are gorgeous and opportunities for employment are seemingly endless. Yet, the veil is lifting and the smoky mist hiding us from the rest of the world is beginning to make us sick. Our Shangri-La is beginning to bust our seams with traffic congestion, higher housing prices and too many low wage jobs. I’m afraid the secret is out about Utah and the masses are coming.
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