In March, researchers at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute found that our current market conditions are threatening to cause a crisis in Utah based on a growing housing shortage, while current home prices continue to appreciate.
The Wasatch front housing market is stronger than ever with an increasing demand for both single family and multifamily rental units through the northern part of the state. New research shows that demand has outpaced wage growth which is causing a greater rift in affordability. Studies show that median home prices during the first three months of 2018 were not affordable for average wage earners in about 68% of the counties included in the US report.
Incomes in Utah have failed to keep pace with interest rates, the report noted. The report also defined housing affordability as a unit where an owner or tenant pays no more than 30 percent of their household income toward housing costs — rent or mortgage.
Davis, Utah and Weber counties, which are located along the Wasatch front rated less affordable than any prior quarter average during the first three months of 2018, while Salt Lake county was equal to its historic affordability index.
Affordability often suffers during booming economic cycles, which frequently outpaces incomes for at least the start of these growth spurts. The risk is that individuals and companies could pull out of the area when they are no longer able to operate or live because of the expensive housing.
Home values are going up quickly [but] the negative side of that is that the homes themselves are also becoming less affordable. Three factors that could help improve affordability in the short term are things like decreasing home prices, increasing wages and although cited as the least likely to happen, decreasing interest rates.
However, the Wasatch front is still a more reasonable market than other large surrounding urban areas like Northern or Southern California, Las Vegas, Seattle or even Denver. Housing prices in Utah will continue to increase at rates well above the national average due to relatively high rates of population and economic growth. As long as the state is considered a bargain for some other competitive markets, we will probably see home prices continuing to grow and affordability continuing to be an issue.