Can’t Pop that Bubble

For those of you hoping that the crazy housing market is just a bubble about to pop, the news is baaaaad.  Home prices in February have shot up in Salt Lake County by a whopping 23% over last year with Utah County coming in at a record high of 30% in 12 months, Davis County up 25%, Weber County up 26% and Tooele County beating out all other areas by coming in at and increase of 43%.

The researchers and statisticians at the University’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute estimate that 67% of Utahans can’t afford a median priced single family home. The U.S. Census Bureau reported our total statewide population as 3.36 million in 2022. Sixty seven percent of that estimate would mean that 2.25 million of our neighbors can’t afford to live in this state.  Where could you move to afford a home?  Zillow estimates homes in Boise, ID average @$534,806 and in Phoenix, Az @$404,000. reports the average home price in Reno, NV is $555,000 and in Las Vegas $406,000.

You know gas prices for cars and trucks is insane right now and food prices just keep going up, up and up. Just before the pandemic in 2019, the annual inflation rate in the U.S. was 2.3%.  In Feb. 2021 to Feb. 2022, that rate jumped to 7.9%-the highest since 1982.  Meat’s poultry, fish and egg prices are up 13% in the last 12 months; fruits and veggies up 7/6%, gas prices up @8%.  All this bad news adds up to everyone having a lot less take home pay at the end of the month.

If you had purchased a home last year your 30 mortgage rate would have been in the high 3% to low 4% rate. Now it’s jumping to around 5%. The payment on a mortgage of $500,000 has gone up almost $400 a month in just a year (principal, interest, taxes, insurance) from around $2700 a month at 3.5% to almost $3100 a month at 5%. That drastic increase pushes out many first time buyers who can’t qualify for the higher payment.

We are currently down tens of thousands of housing inventories to meet the demand of not just home buyers but also renters. This bubble won’t burst soon given that as of 3/17 we had only 515 properties for sale in Salt Lake County (all prices), with 10,500 members of the Salt Lake Board of REALTORS trying to put offers on these properties for their clients. In a normal market we’d have 2-3000 homes for sale. More people are moving to Utah that out of Utah and that alone puts immense pressure on housing inventory. reported this month that Utah has massive amounts of people moving here, from California, Colorado, Idaho, Arizona, and Texas in that order. Although we’re in a building boom we are definitely not keeping up with supply, nor does it look better in the next few years for anyone hoping to find a deal on their first home.


Decades ago, in New York City there was a forgotten 10 acres of public space called Bryant Park at 1071 Avenue of the Americas between West 40th and West 41st Streets. By the 1980’s it had become our version of what our Pioneer Park looked like-a campground for the unsheltered, a place to buy and use drugs. Locals avoided it as much as possible even though it had some rich history in a great location in Manhattan. It was a site for military drills during the American Revolution and in the early 1800’s it became a public cemetery to bury unknown or indigent people. It was designated a public park in 1871 but according to the book ‘The Power Broker’ it became neglected and “a haven for drunks and idlers”.

On this side of the Mississippi River, Pioneer Park in downtown Salt Lake City was originally Pioneer Fort, what the Daughters of Utah Pioneers called “What Plymouth is to New England, the Old Fort is to the Great West”. It was the landing place of Mormons who arrived in 1847 and within a week they began building a fort with log cabins and adobe walls. After 1890 it was used as ap playground and in 1898 it was dedicated as Pioneer Park and ever since then locals have struggled as to what the use should be for the land. In the 1940’s some wanted to turn it into a larger area for a golf course then in the 1950’s plans were made to re-create the first school house and original cabins there. In the 1990’s The Deseret News reported that it’s location near the bus station, Rescue Mission, Salvation Army and shelters made the place a natural congregation for transients.

Since the main downtown shelter has been bulldozed, less transients are seen at the park. They have been ‘pushed’ to other places in the city by police and the Health Department. Having lived for 20 years a block away from the park, I sat on many committees as to what to do with the greenspace to make it more inviting. Now the City is once again hearing ideas that would make it more like what Bryant Park has become today-a fabulous mid-town gathering place for concerts and a sponsored Winter market that runs from October through March each year with almost 200 vendors. Salt Lake City staff and a group called ‘Design Workshop’ have requested $20mil to add pickleball courts, a café, water misting feature, bus stops, a basketball court, all age playground and fitness circuit and enhanced dog park. Bryant Park gathered massive financial support for the businesses surrounding it whereas Pioneer Park has support but not even 1/10th of funds from businesses to date and relies on the City to fund the changes. Everyone wants a better park if the City has the money, but lets not forget there are several other green spaces that need attention in this town with minority input.


I love local history, and this time of year history is in bloom. Mulberry trees which are scattered all over the Salt Lake Valley and down as far south as St. George are getting ready to produce fruit this summer which can be used for jam or wine. These historic trees were planted by the first and second wave of white pioneers to the state who were determined to create a silk economy within the confines of our borders. Dr. Sasha Coles is writing a book: Nation’s Wealth Surrounds a Worm”: Mulberry Trees, Silk Cocoons, and Women Workers in Mormon Country, 1850s-1910s and I had the opportunity to hear her give remarks about this web of our past and her research.

During the 19th century, Utahns were looking at many different ways to create money making industries for their families and their church. Raising silk worms didn’t take a lot of capital investment-you could trade or purchase the worms for very little.  Male run households in a myriad of cultures around the world found that women, children, elderly, native and enslaved peoples that were too old or too weak could generate capitol with this home business. Basically, anyone could be employed doing this business. Silk manufacturing kept them at home in modest home-factory operations. Plus, it was a self-sufficient industry, not like farming sugar beets, raising sheep for wool, planting cotton, mining silver, gold and iron. This home based industry didn’t rely on imported goods and Latter Day Saints created an economy by and for Mormons based on the fibers created by the insect. Silk industry-women and children planted trees, produced cocoons, invested in an economy “worthy of Christ’s second coming”.  Saints synthesized cooperation’s and centralized planning with the incentives and infrastructure that fueled 19th century capitalism

Leaves of the white mulberry are silkworms’ food of choice.  Latter Day Saints brought seeds with them across the plains. One home farmer, Pricilla Jacobs tried to time the silkworm hatching to trees getting their leaves but complained that once they started eating the leaves it sounded like “rain on the trees” as they kept their creatures in the attic munching on the freshly harvested mulberry leaves. Relief Societies across the state offered each other advice on how to keep the trees and worms alive. The trees were susceptible to heat. Worms were kept cool so they wouldn’t hatch. One woman put them against her chest to heat up and left services to run home and get them to their food source. The industry was touted as an automatic money maker for investors, but it really wasn’t easy to get the final product.

The railroad came to Utah in the later 1800’s and that helped get resources and product in and out of the state. The 1983 Chicago World’s fair had a ‘Utah Building’ which featured silk scarves, thread, upholstered items, drapes, and clothing and touted ‘See real live Mormon girls making silk!’. The industry died off in the early 1900’s despite a $.25 cocoon bounty authorized by the legislature to encourage production. The Saints couldn’t compete with Japan’s and China’s infrastructure and silk mills. Many of the trees died off but some do live on.