Experts say density is key to solving Utah’s housing crisis

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – For many the word density in a community brings up a vision of 200-unit apartment complex going right next door and straining local infrastructure.

It means a diverse number of options for housing, that if done right can solve several other problems we’re facing. Some communities say their areas aren’t equipped to handle it what’s been proposed.

“Unless we directly affect this problem, housing and infrastructure, and growth then we won’t have the ability to have the quality of life,” said Abby Osborne VP Public Policy with Salt Lake Chamber.

Experts say the research is clear. We have to take major steps to fix our housing crisis.

“We have a gap right now of household units and household formations, and it’s causing prices to skyrocket,” said Osborne.

That gap in Utah is around 54,000 housing units. A recent study by the Salt Lake Chamber found density is key to solving the problem, but it would have to be shared by all communities.

“We have to have the density in a smart way, in places across the valley,” said Osborne.

In recent months several communities have been outspoken against major developments in their areas such as Olympia Hills in the Southwest and the old Cottonwood Mall site in Holladay.

Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, who was outspoken on Olympia Hills says this more than a case of “not in my backyard”

 “It is the number one issue on the forefront of many of our residents’ minds and concerned about building and choking the infrastructure that’s already in place,” said Staggs.

Mayor Staggs says several mayors and residents were outspoken because they felt like the plan was rushed, and had too much density for the area to handle.

“Let’s not have the southwest part of the county be the catch-all and try to make up for any housing shortage,” said Staggs.

He notes public transportation is slim in the area because TRAX stops in South Jordan.

The mayor estimates denser housing makes up 20 percent of the current stock.

Experts agree if density is planned correctly it could help alleviate other issues. Professor Reid Ewing says Daybreak is a perfect example.

“Daybreak has a much more connected street network than typically in the suburbs, and that disburses traffic,” said Ewing.

Density in the right place has shown to reduce driving as much as 50 percent.

Experts are working with communities across Utah to develop density plans to make sure housing is affordable in the future.

“This will affect our kids and grandkids, this will affect our next generation of people who want to be here and stay here,” said Osborne.

Experts stress that density doesn’t have to mean apartment complexes and that a mix of homes, townhouses, and apartments allows for a wide range of people to live in one area.

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