Local leaders’ efforts to address affordable housing and growth


Cities don’t control market factors or build houses. But our Utah cities do work diligently and creatively to manage and foster smart growth. This benefits our own communities and our state as a whole.  Cities create master plans, and we manage and oversee appropriate uses of land in our communities according to those plans. Cities provide the framework for unique communities– places that knit together housing, transportation, jobs, and community. 


Even as the price of land and lumber soars, the quality of life in our Utah neighborhoods attracts more people.  Our efforts to recruit new business and encourage economic growth also brings new residents.  At the same time our residents, who’ve grown to expect a certain quality of life, are concerned growth will not be individually and strategically managed by those they’ve elected to lead their community, those elected officials closest to the people.

A recent survey conducted by Y2 Analytics asked residents who they trust the most with planning for the long term needs of a growing community.  A majority of Utahns, 58%, said their city or town. City leaders take seriously their role to look after their residents’ welfare and plan, both short and long term, for their community.   

With current market trends, housing affordability is a real issue, especially in our urban communities, that we are actively working to address. In fact, before the passage of Utah Senate Bill 0034 in 2019, which required cities to plan for moderate income housing to qualify for state transportation funding, cities were already adopting innovative ways to facilitate growth. Leaders in our communities are modifying city centers, funding infrastructure projects to establish direct access to jobs and education, strategically modifying zoning, and crafting ordinances for neighborhood appropriate ADUs . In fact, more than 60 cities have already recently adopted ordinances to authorize accessory dwelling units.   

One of the fastest growing cities in Utah is Vineyard, close to major universities and a growing technical hub in the state.  Vineyard Mayor Julie Fullmer says the city is working “to provide deliberate inclusive housing options that preserve moderate-income housing and encourage multi-faceted lifestyles throughout the city and in the heart of the downtown.”  Vineyard’s efforts are coordinated simultaneously with surrounding localities to create a regional design.

A very new Utah city dealing with relatively old infrastructure is addressing housing.  Jeff Silvestrini, Millcreek Mayor, explains, “We have adopted ordinances to permit unlimited density in two separate areas of our city, including West Millcreek along the TRAX corridor and our new City Center Development at 3300 S. and 1300 East near the old brickyard.”

In addition, Millcreek has increased the CRA tax increment set-aside for affordable housing to 15%, more than the required 10%.  Millcreek also has a city-wide ADU ordinance in the works, currently progressing through our approval process.

In the City of Moab, the high cost of land, a lack of inventory, and competition with nightly rentals has city leaders working fiercely to protect housing affordability.  According to Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus, the city is addressing housing affordability by “incentivizing density through policy and building the first city-owned multifamily development in Moab.”  Moab is also strategically planning to incentivize ADUs in the coming months.

Market factors affect tourism-based cities like Park City in a very unique way.  With an economy dependent on the service industry, the city sets aside funds specifically for affordable housing.  Park City Mayor Andy Beerman says the city has a goal to increase affordable housing inventory by 800 units by 2026, including developing some city-owned housing units close to the city’s transit system.  The city is also incentivizing private housing development by reducing open space requirements, set-backs, parking requirements, and increasing height limits for projects that include a minimum of 50% affordable housing. 

While municipal leaders adjust zoning, modify ADU requirements, encourage growth near transit hubs, and implement innovative ways to affect housing prices, we need the public and private sectors to work together to find solutions to our housing challenges while respecting residents’ expectations and desires to entrust local leaders.   Cities work to learn, share, and implement new ideas to foster healthy growth while protecting the unique characteristics that we find in each Utah community.