Utah Foundation: New report identifies housing types across the Wasatch Front

Significant variations among cities, key trends explained

Today, the Utah Foundation releases the second part of its new study, Is the Middle Missing? A Guide to Expanding Options for Utah Homebuyers and Renters. “What is the Middle, and Where is it?” examines the prevalence of middle housing in the four largest Utah counties and the relevant development trends.

“Missing Middle Housing” is a term that encompasses a variety of multi-unit housing buildings that are house-scale, facilitate neighborhood walkability, accommodate changing demographics and preferences, and are available to people with a range of incomes. Middle housing offers the potential to increase the supply of housing, but at a scale that is not objectionable to most neighbors and in a manner that can improve upon neighborhoods. There are obstacles to increasing this type of housing, though they are not insurmountable.

The guide is separated into four parts. The first installment, “The Scope of the Challenge,” examined Utah’s housing problem and was released in November. Two more installments are forthcoming.

They will address Utahns’ housing preferences and look at obstacles and opportunities to increase the availability of middle housing.

Among the findings of Part II:

  • Middle housing offers an important response to Utah’s need for more housing choices at a variety of price points, to the growing demand for walkable communities, and to an increasing number of households with fewer and older people.
  • While middle housing might take the form of a duplex, a six-unit townhome or a 12-unit apartment, the number of units alone is an oversimplification of middle housing, which depends on the neighborhood and is defined by multiple characteristics.
  • In Davis, Salt Lake, Utah and Weber counties, about 14% of housing units are middle housing. This suggests that there may be room to expand these options – especially in light of high costs, changing preferences and shifting demographics.
  • In Utah’s four largest counties, townhomes are the most common type, followed by small multiplexes (duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes).
  • Middle-housing development has shifted over time. Most of Utah’s small multiplexes were built between the early 20th century and the 1980s, but since 2000, townhomes have become the predominant middle-housing type.
  • The amount, proportion and types of middle housing vary significantly within counties, with some localities bringing in a wider diversity of housing types.

Utah Foundation President Peter Reichard said citizens may be surprised to see the forms middle housing has taken over time and where it is emerging along the Wasatch Front. “The new report provides a visual guide to middle housing options both from the past and in brand-new formats,” Reichard said. “These options demonstrate that middle housing can emerge in ways that are well designed and blend seamlessly in various neighborhoods.”

Part II of Is the Middle Missing? A Guide to Expanding Options for Utah Homebuyers and Renters is available on the Utah Foundation website at www.utahfoundation.org. Special thanks to Salt Lake County, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, the Utah League of Cities and Towns, the Wasatch Front Regional Council and Y2 Analytics for providing project-based support.