Free Market

Innovative Solutions for Utah’s Housing Crunch

The current housing crisis is affecting people all over the nation, especially in Utah. Utah is reported to have a deficit of at least 61,000 homes, and this deficit is one of the key factors behind skyrocketing home prices. Rising mortgage rates, the deficit of houses, the high cost of developable land, and high inflation have all combined to create the current crisis. 

In order to fix the housing situation, changes must be made. Innovation in policy, zoning regulation, and construction must all be considered and implemented. Relying on the same policies that led to this point will not be enough. 

One robotics company in Indiana is displaying just that kind of innovation. Since the company has a background in AI, robotics, and construction, they decided to find an innovative solution to tackling housing shortages. The result is a system that 3-D prints houses made of mud and other earthen materials. While still a prototype, the robot can create walls out of the earthen materials that are soundproof, bulletproof, fireproof, and insulated. The materials are also cheaper than the more commonly used cement and more sustainable. 

These 3-D printed houses may not be the innovation that solves the housing crisis forever. But they do represent the kind of creative solutions needed right now. Utah has the opportunity to lead out in this space through the inclusive sandbox program. Utah’s sandbox program allows businesses to experiment with new ideas without the regulatory oversight that can squash new ideas. With this program in place, Utah is creating the opportunity for new innovations in the housing sector to flourish. 

Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune
A home for sale in Salt Lake City, Thursday April 27, 2017.

An innovative landscape also gives creative local governments a chance to help relieve the housing shortage. Local governments have the power to modify and change local zoning laws for their cities and towns. This responsibility requires careful thought and new kinds of planning. A  creative local government can make a huge difference in the current housing crisis. 

Utah can also lead out on reforming zoning policies that contribute to housing shortages. One significant reform will legalize starter homes by allowing houses to be built on smaller and more affordable plot sizes. Instead of only building houses on larger plots of land, one simple solution is to build more houses on smaller plots of land. Smaller plots of land will be cheaper and provide more space to build additional houses, also driving down prices. 

Utahns should embrace innovation and reform now and help Utah again become an affordable place to live.