Utah can’t seem to build fast enough to accommodate new homebuyers — many of them born and raised here — and everyone else looking for housing. For the past few years there have been many debates about why, but one of the main reasons is zoning and building regulations, which leads to an interesting development coming out of California (a place battling expensive housing costs much worse than Utah).
A proposal from 2020 is being resurrected to address the housing crisis. SB 4, the Affordable Housing on Faith Lands Act, passed the California Senate unanimously in 2020 but was not taken up in the Assembly. The bill would allow for the building process to be streamlined for religious institutions and nonprofit colleges when constructing low-income housing. Obstacles in zoning would also be set aside.
Sounds like a great way to cut the red tape!
But this begs the following questions: If it’s good enough for churches and colleges, why isn’t it good enough for everyone else? If it’s good enough for low-income housing, why not starter homes (which Utah desperately needs)? As long as reasonable safeguards are in place, why not pursue major change that could benefit everyone?
We’ve been shouting about the need for zoning reform for some time now. It is becoming more and more apparent with the housing shortage that this is a necessity. Utah and its cities should be looking at the types of solutions being pursued around the country (including this Affordable Housing on Faith Lands Act) that can be applied across the board.
Until supply meets the demand, housing costs will remain high. If people want their children to stay in Utah or to attract talent in high-paying industries, we’ll need to see the reality that current zoning follows an antiquated model of local governance. Let’s get creative and cut the red tape.