December 8, 2020 (Salt Lake City) – The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, in partnership with the Salt Lake Chamber’s Housing Gap Coalition, today released a landmark study that identifies five best practices developed by local jurisdictions aimed at meeting the housing affordability challenge in Utah. To identify best practices, the Gardner Institute conducted a survey of 35 practitioners engaged in housing affordability work across the state. The study examines why these practices are “best practices”, the implementation of each practice, and the potential outcomes produced.
“Addressing the housing crisis requires a multi-practice approach and will involve strategies that are tailored to a city’s political climate, development history, and socioeconomic conditions,” said Jim Wood, Ivory-Boyer Senior Fellow at the Gardner Institute and lead author of the study. “While a city’s housing practices are unique to that city’s needs, there are a few universal elements for successful housing strategies: community outreach, commitment, and flexibility.”
Key practices identified in the study include the following:
Zoning Changes – Zoning ordinances, in no small measure, control the supply of housing through land use, density, and design regulations. These regulations, more than any other local policies, govern the annual supply of single-family and multifamily housing. They provide a powerful policy tool to increase the supply of housing.
Preservation of Affordable Housing – The preservation and rehabilitation of existing affordable units typically cost, at least, 40% less than the cost of new affordable rental units. Preservation avoids the high development costs of new construction and the neighborhood opposition (Nimbyism) associated with developing new units.
Redevelopment Agencies and Tax Increment Financing – Redevelopment agencies (RDAs) in Utah have used tax increment financing for over 50 years to spur economic development. Tax increment financing is used to help finance investment, generally for 20 to 25 years, in a targeted geographical area designated as a project area. At the establishment of a project area, the current local property tax revenue from the land and structures within the project area becomes the “base” amount of property tax revenue. As economic development occurs in the project area, property values rise, and property tax revenues increase.
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) – According to a recent survey completed by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation out of UC Berkeley, ADU rents average 58% below market value. ADUs are an essential tool for delivering affordable units to the market. They can quickly provide affordable options in areas with higher rents increasing affordable housing in owner-occupied, high-cost, residential neighborhoods.
Transit-Oriented Development (TOD’s) – Transit-oriented developments (TODs) are compact, mixed-use developments anchored around transit hubs and walkable communities. Zoning for high-density housing often comes with the establishment of a TOD, which has the additional advantage of reducing transportation costs and increasing access to jobs, education, essential goods, and local services.
“The seriousness of Utah’s housing crisis is an issue Utah’s business community has been faced with for some time,” said Derek B. Miller, President and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “Insufficient and unattainable housing impacts businesses’ ability to recruit and retain employees, affects the quality of life of our workforce, and limits our potential for economic growth. Support for housing affordability is support for our continued prosperity.”