UTAH (ABC4) – Senator Mike Lee has introduced a bill to address the lack of housing supply throughout the state of Utah.

Lawmakers say housing across the country is short by 5.24 million homes, which has pushed housing prices to the max.

The year-over-year increases in Utah were 24.5%, Arizona with 28.8% and Idaho with 28.7%.

The Helping Open Underutilized Space to Ensure Shelter or HOUSES Act aims to address housing scarcity by allowing parcels of federal land to be purchased at a reduced cost by local government. The bill is being co-sponsored by Senator Mitt Romney and Senator John Barrasso.

The purchased land must be used towards housing development that’s subject to a density requirement. Lawmakers aim to protect “against development of expensive second homes on the purchased parcels.”

The federal government currently owns over two-thirds of Utah land, according to lawmakers.

“Supply is not meeting housing demand in Utah, and the federal government’s land ownership is a significant cause of our restricted housing stock,” says Lee. “The HOUSES Act will free federal land in a responsible manner to keep the dream and promise of Utah alive. This bill will help ensure Utah remains a place where families and communities can thrive, grow, and prosper.”

Besides housing, the bill allows for related community developments including primary and secondary schools, grocery stores, places of worship, hospitals and health clinics. The bill would only allow no more than 15% of development towards commercial purposes.

Sen. Mitt Romney responded to the bill saying:

“As our state has experienced rapid growth over the last decade, housing prices have skyrocketed and housing affordability has become a growing challenge for communities across our state—a challenge which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. We must make finding and affording houses more accessible for everyone. However, with two-thirds of our state owned by the federal government, the ability of many communities to expand is prohibited by federal ownership. By increasing the amount of federal land that can be used for housing development—ranging from single family homes to low-income housing and apartments—our legislation will start to address our state’s housing shortages.”

To read a one-page summary of the bill, click here.

To read the proposed bill in its entirety, click here.