There's no doubt about it: housing has become quite the hot-button topic throughout the state of Utah. Utah's population is growing at a rate more than double the national average with the second highest job growth in the nation--and housing can't seem to keep up. According to the Housing Gap Coalition, Utah currently has more households than available housing units. And those available housing units are ever increasing in value, making them unaffordable to many new and low-income potential homebuyers. Even rental rates have been increasing over the last several years--and in Salt Lake City there are now more renters than homeowners. Many believe that the next generation is facing a bonafide housing crisis.
But, according to Mary Street, executive vice president and associate broker at Colliers International, the housing problem is not just an issue of there not being enough homes. To her, the housing shortage is actually a shortage in housing that is affordable and desirable. To build a strategy that ensures access to homes for the next generation, we need to keep those things in mind.
WHAT THE NEXT GENERATION WANTS
Recently, a woman in front of Street at a grocery store was complaining to a friend about her daughter. She said that she had helped her daughter buy a beautiful home, only to find that her daughter took no pride in it. She never weeded her flower beds, and so the mother had to go over to her daughter's home and weed them herself.
According to Street, this is exactly the sort of cautionary tale the housing conversation needs to consider going forward. "It's not just a supply and demand question," she says. Supply and demand economics assume that if we increase supply, prices will go down, thereby allowing more houses to become available at more affordable rates, solving the housing crisis altogether. But that's not always the case.
The next generation of homebuyers have very different preferences than their Baby Boomer parents. They don't want large homes in suburban housing developments with expansive yards that they're left to take care of. They want small homes near friends, restaurants and yoga studios. They want high-speed internet and access to open space. And they definitely don't want to spend time weeding their flower beds.
As Street says: "It's my dream to have a garden. Not my kids' dream."
WHAT THE NEXT GENERATION NEEDS
Housing affordability, of course, is still a much bigger issue.
"The largest group of people...