In our opinion: High-density housing will be the future of Utah

Return To Article
Add a comment
  • KMR2 Herriman, UT
    Sept. 24, 2018 3:41 p.m.

    I can't help but think of the last lines of The Eagles song, The Last Resort:

    "They called it paradise, I don't know why
    You call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye."

  • Frozen Fractals Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 16, 2018 2:00 p.m.

    @Harrison Bergeron
    " Affordable is a euphemism for cheap. High density and cheap is a known recipe for slums. "

    Poor people have to live somewhere. Low density generally doesn't correlate with cheap unless we're talking the middle of nowhere which doesn't work for poor people who aren't exactly looking to have a car for a long daily commute to work.

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    Sept. 14, 2018 4:41 p.m.

    I find it curious that the only things developers seem to be building are either prohibitively expensive very-low-density McMansions or packed apartment high-rises.

    The small-lot modest freestanding homes that dominate older Utah neighborhoods, the duplexes/quadruplexes with shared yard space, and a hundred other options for having much higher density than the McMansion suburb without the feeling of the inner city all seem to be entirely off the agenda.

    I imagine that zoning, property tax schedules, and other distortions must be much of the cause. There's plenty of market demand for modest housing. We've got to fix the regulatory and tax structure to give people incentives to work towards a rational and workable future.

    Utah was settled with exceptionally high density - well planned, compact communities settled under Brigham Young's direction. Places like Seattle that started with poor planning quickly ran into trouble and learned to more actively design their community. We've been riding Brigham Young's coattails and taking the good foundation we started out with for granted, and now that foundation is cracking and we don't have the know-how or willpower to fix it.

  • justanothercolby Utah County, UT
    Sept. 14, 2018 11:59 a.m.

    City councils do know that @Orem Parent. We are fighting it but the state and transportation agencies like UDOT, UTA, and county entities are forcing it upon us. We literally had out generally plan changed underneath us by outside "stakeholders" to force "sustainability". When asked what that is, nobody can answer. There is a concerted effort to destroy the suburban way of life. This is not about the market. Developers can still make money on single family homes. They just love the higher margins. But keep in mind kids out of college shouldn't be able to afford a home. What used to take years of work and saving up, people think they are entitled to as newlyweds. You may need to rent or leave in a less affluent area while you build your finances...many of us have done that.

  • RulesNotExceptions Eagle Mountain, UT
    Sept. 14, 2018 11:49 a.m.

    Is it any wonder that this is being pushed when a large portion of our legislature are land developers? Of course they suggest the solution is to build a whole bunch more high's how they make money...they've been buying up land and then trying to create law to force cities to let them build the highest densities possible. We need to wait it out and put Affordable Housing dollars to good use with grant programs to help families get single family homes.

    People are fleeing to our state from California for the very same reasons we say we need to commit to high density. High density largely gets retained by he dev or scooped up by investors who get the purchase with cash rather than it being sold to hardworking individuals. We end up with high transiency and high crime. High density must be limited.

    I recently traveled to San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland...they are nothing like what Utah should be. They are impoverished, awful cities where there is little choice because of their housing and transportation initiatives. Let's continue to be different. It's what has made us prosper but we will lose that.

  • Flipphone Sandy, UT
    Sept. 14, 2018 11:35 a.m.

    Today, for many reasons, from land to building materials, to labor and fees, home affordability for most, means high-density. And its only going to get worse.

  • Noodlekaboodle Poplar Grove, UT
    Sept. 14, 2018 8:39 a.m.

    And I wouldn't put the area you live in on my list of places that are more affordable than SLC. But Spokane and Eastern Washington are not in the same boat that Seattle is. Significantly lower housing costs, lower sales tax than Seattle(8.8 versus 10.1) Not to mention you don't get taxed on food in Washington like you do in Utah, with our admittedly lower 6.85 sales tax. The property taxes in Spokane County are more expensive than in SLC, about $1000 more a year for a 250K home. Definitely not 5% of my income more(i mean I pay the state a couple grand a year in income tax, plus I still pay property tax) With that said King County is a whole other ball of wax that has become a pricey, pricey place to live.

  • Makid Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 14, 2018 7:56 a.m.

    The last 20 years or so, there has been an increase in the number of people moving back to the "City". This can be seen in the census numbers and it shows that people have been changing for a while.

    The option of a yard is nice but not everyone wants a yard to raise their children. Many new families are only having 1 or 2 children and they don't need as much space. This has also allowed more people to scale down.

    The recession of 2007/2008 also changed perspectives on home ownership and many people have shifted away from houses and towards apartments across the country. In many areas, including here, they are able to live without a car. This frees up more money to save for retirement that they wouldn't be able to do if they bought a house. Others, would be 2 car families where an apartment allows them to have 0 or 1 car and still raise a family.

    As long as the neighborhood and the people within care about their homes, slums will not happen. Cities are also responsible in ensuring that owners maintain the buildings, this is why SLC has requirements on rental properties to avoid slums. Other cities need to follow their lead.

  • old cuss 101 Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 9:20 p.m.

    We have just returned from a visit back east where the history is older and the population more dense. For the many reasons, barring a cataclysmic event or events, the population of Utah/Idaho is going to grow and the number of dwellings for people to live in will increase while the ground space will fill up. By reason of wealth segregation, the densest of housing will be populated by the poor and the wealthy will have a choice of urban, suburban, or rural living as will the middle class, to some extent.

    Current construction of high density housing lacks the quality and character of much of the older urban construction and may, or may not, turn into slums depending to great extent on factors unrelated to construction quality. Eagle Gate apts. have been socially stable for a long time.

    It seems that there are many people who like living in a high density environment with urban transportation and cultural amenities. But not a lot of them live in the suburban/rural west, yet. You can imagine that it will take a few generations to make the adaptation, but it will come because there is hardly an alternative.

    We will have to allow and encourage the future to live in its own time.

  • my_two_cents_worth university place, WA
    Sept. 13, 2018 7:09 p.m.


    "Plus there is no income tax in Washington."

    Yeah, but we more than make up for that with a regressive sales tax structure, expensive auto tabs, and some of the highest property tax rates in the nation. I wouldn't trade living here for anything!

  • Hubble65 Sandy, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 5:49 p.m.

    I'm happy. A home I bought in the 2008 has doubled in price since then. Another that I rent out and purchased in 2001 has tripled in value here in the Salt Lake Valley. I believe your seeing the Californiatization of Utah in the fact that home prices will be between $750,000 on the low end to $1.1 to $1.5 million for a complete 6-8 bedroom house, 2 to 3 baths for a large family. High density is the only way to afford housing for many even right now and into the future. Those high density units will go for what a house use to cost ($250 to $500k), they are now in many instances and people are buying them and will buy them. It is about lifestyle for many and high density provides a life style a suburban home doesn't. Everything essential is close, the HOA provides activities and items in the area. It is the future and to be honest, I think the 20 and 30 somethings for the most part like that lifestyle. It's here to stay.

  • Harrison Bergeron Holladay , UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 4:55 p.m.

    @ bassoonlady

    Of course there are high-end condos and such that aren't slums. But we aren’t talking about Trump Tower here. Affordable is a euphemism for cheap. High density and cheap is a known recipe for slums.

    Moreover, there is no reason for everyone to cram into Salt Lake County, or even Utah County. Not only is it not necessary, but it will lead to complete grid lock on I-15 and every other street. We do not have the space to build more freeways. And we have dumped truckloads of money into public transportation only to see trains and busses drive around empty most of the time. Also, the Salt Lake Valley is a geological bowl. Adding more people will worsen air quality problems. There is no amount of planning that gets us around that fact.

    The solution is for business and people to start locating in lovely places like Juab, Sanpete, Carbon and Emery counties. The air is clean there, the scenery is beautiful. There is ample land and water available. When you thing about it, it's silly. We are all standing around trying to figure out how to stuff more people into a VW Beatle when there's an empty bus available.

  • jpc53 Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 2:50 p.m.

    @Orem Parent
    Glad you like your SFH and are able to afford it. You are one of the lucky ones that can. Unfortunately, your children will most likely not be able to do the same. The only way for Utah to continue its growth is to come up with a solution that includes all types of housing at various price points.

  • Noodlekaboodle Poplar Grove, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 2:18 p.m.

    @No Names Accepted
    There are two problems with those areas, one is the lack of water. You're talking about massive infrastructure projects to pipe water to those areas and the other issues is that as much as area's like silicone slopes are increasing the number of high paying jobs, the majority of the good, high paying jobs in the state are in Salt Lake. And I don't see it changing anytime soon. People are going to want to live near the jobs. It's not realistic to expect people to commute to Salt Lake from Vernal.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 1:42 p.m.

    To "NoNamesAccepted" the problem is that the open areas that are still around Utah don't have the water available like we do in the SL Valley.

  • bassoonlady OREM, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 12:26 p.m.

    Harrison, not necessarily.
    Where I lived in Brazil, the majority of the upper middle class live in some kind of apartment it condo, and many of the neighborhoods with houses and small yards were the ones you didn't go to at night unless you wanted to risk your life.
    Apartments can be high class living, and urban neighborhoods can be slums.
    Also, many small towns have the reputation of being unwelcoming to newcomers, even if they are friendly with each other.
    I personally don't favor high density housing. I would prefer for Utah not to grow up and get overcrowded, especially as Utah has a harder time dealing with air pollution, thanks to our inversion challenges. But if we are going to continue to grow, we need to be smart about it. Public transportation will be essential, which will require way more planning that we have put into it so far. So far, the public transportation we have just isn't practical, but our current infrastructure can't sustain the growth increased housing will cause.
    This requires careful planning, and I'm glad that citizens get involved and fight so that we are more careful and can come up with solutions that benefit all.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 12:12 p.m.

    @jpc53: "We have been lucky in that we have had a great amount of land but with the increase in population that is coming to an end. "

    I've seen this sentiment repeated several times. Anyone who believes we are "running out of land" desperately needs to get off the Wasatch Front. Even ignoring the 66% of our State that is federally controlled, Utah has no shortage of land. In fact, between Payson and Cedar City there is enough within 15 miles of I-15 for over 3 million homes, each sitting on nearly a full acre of land. Even at no more than 3 persons per household, that is 9 million persons all living in extremely low density housing. This ignores areas like northern Utah and eastern Utah.

    The problem is not land in Utah, it is that we continue to encourage every business to set up shop the same 3 counties which all suffer from winter inversions and other geographically induced air quality issues.

    @cjb: "Grocery shopping, restaurants, hardware stores, shops of many kinds, parks, food carts are within walkable distance."

    This only happens if high density is properly planned and situated. Spot zoning into existing low-density, single-family areas prevents those nice things.

  • Frozen Fractals Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 12:02 p.m.

    In the next 40 or so years SLC's population is projected to grow by the population of Utah county, and vice-versa. That is a massive expansion in both counties and there's only so much space.

  • Harrison Bergeron Holladay , UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 11:40 a.m.

    This is an awful idea. High density housing leads to a host of high density problems, the first of which is high density traffic, the second of which is high density crime, the third is high density litter and garbage, the fourth is high density air pollution., and the list goes on….

    When people live in tight spaces they become irritated with each other. People that live in the country are kind, friendly and courteous. People that live in big cities are indifferent, unfriendly and rude. Of course there are exceptions in both cases, but they are just that - exceptions.

    Utah is one of the most urban states in the country; more urban than such states as New York, Illinois and Connecticut. Nine of every 10 of us live on only 1.1% of the state's land mass. Let's spread out a little bit and give ourselves some room to breathe.

    We need to start incentivizing businesses to locate in places like Juab, Sanpete and Emery counties. People who grow up in rural Utah would love to stay there if they could find good employment. Others would love to move there for the same reason.

    Others have tried this many times before, they're called slums.

  • Makid Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 11:39 a.m.

    Many of the High Density projects going up in and around the Greater Downtown SLC area are being filled by people that are working for Goldman Sachs and the numerous tech companies located Downtown and along the Wasatch Front. These are highly paid people that live Downtown because they can walk or take transit to work, shop, nightlife, and so forth.

    There are areas of High Density that have gone up in Sugarhouse (SLC) and South Salt Lake that are connected via transit and are walkable and have Grocery, Commercial and Retail nearby that doesn't require a car to get to.

    Other areas along the Wasatch Front, even along the Transit Lines (Rail) are building High Density, some building TODs (Transit Oriented Developments). Many may include some retail but most aren't really walkable and none include or have a grocery nearby nor commercial and all require a car to be sufficient.

    So, while High Density is in the future, it must also be planned to be walkable and include transit, groceries, commercial, retail, and there must be some parks/open space. Planned right, there will be room for High, medium, light, and SFH's in the future.

  • jpc53 Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 11:30 a.m.

    If you look to Europe and other civilisations begun before the U.S. their cities are all high density. We have been lucky in that we have had a great amount of land but with the increase in population that is coming to an end.
    We need to find ways to properly manage this.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 11:13 a.m.

    If we are going to add a bunch of high density housing, then let's do proper city planning.

    Spot zoning high density into the middle of existing, single-family neighborhoods grossly degrades quality of life for existing residents while not providing the real benefits of high density. Spot zoning makes developers nice provides, but puts a lot more cars on streets not designed for them, and housing units into areas where utilities are not adequate. These apartment dwellers still require cars, for which they don't have adequate parking. They don't enjoy walkable communities. They don't have sufficient yard space for raising children.

    Developers make out like bandits, while existing residents lose quality of life and are required to pay the lion's share of the costs of upgrading utilities, building and maintaining new parks those with private yards don't need, etc.

    Honest, pro-active city planning would zone proper areas near mass transit and shopping for high density. The only downside is that developers pay more for commercial land than they do for single-family residential. Profits are lower. That seems a small price to pay for getting housing right.

    But no more spot zoning.

  • Aaron G. Provo, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 10:45 a.m.

    @Orem Parent re: “Drive 20 miles in either direction away from I-15 and there is nothing but open space for hundreds of miles. Water will always be an issue but we can conquer that with more storage as needed.”

    Great. That is awesome. I live in Orem near Lakeridge Jr. High and I love the UVU students, the young married UVU & BYU students and their children, and I hate mowing the lawn (I still do it, however). I am happy they have my community to live within. The animosity many of my neighbors have toward the students and the poor does not reflect the generally loving attitude of Utah Valley or the neighborhood surrounding Lakeridge and UVU.

    Maybe we need to look to the needs of our children and those moving here and recognize a change needs to be made. I however do not think moving to places like Wallsburg or Cedar Fort are the right options for everyone and nor will those communities welcome everyone running away from all the service opportunities springing up on the Wasatch Front.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 10:24 a.m.

    Having spent time in San Francisco and Taiwan I can say that apartments can be quite nice. You don't have to hop in your car to go everywhere. It's really quite convenient.

    Grocery shopping, restaurants, hardware stores, shops of many kinds, parks, food carts are within walkable distance. It's really quite nice.

    Of course this presumes that the neighboors aren't slummy or low class. Apartments like single family neghborhoods some in different flavors. Pick a good neighborhood.

  • Orem Parent Orem, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 10:20 a.m.

    Laughing hard at the no available land comments.

    Drive 20 miles in either direction away from I-15 and there is nothing but open space for hundreds of miles. Water will always be an issue but we can conquer that with more storage as needed.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 10:10 a.m.

    High density housing doesn't equal slums.

    There are lots of high class apartments.

    Low class people equals slums.

  • CKS007 Clearfield, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 10:05 a.m.

    I have talked with three families that have moved out of the state because of these reasons. High housing costs and lower wages in Utah is a bad combination. The families ended up moving to the states of Washington, Ohio and Illinois. Housing prices are out of control. Are we looking at another housing bubble like the one that burst a decade ago?

  • UtahBlueDevil Alpine, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 9:59 a.m.

    Apartments will become slums? Talk to our President about that. He made millions ( or if you believe him billions) on providing prestigious named buildings for people to live in. The neighborhoods around Temple Square - hardly slums. Visit the peninsula in the San Francisco bay area... hardly slums. Look at many cities. Apartments does not mean slums. Where in the world did that come from?

    People who make comments like these need to get out more. There are lots of housing solutions for lots of people. Many people like not having a lawn to mow. Many people like being able to walk restaurants and stores. A lot of people like not having the cost of multiple cars.

    I live on 2 acres. I have multiple cars. That works for me. But to say everyone "needs" a house with a small yard... crazy. You want a house, no one is preventing anyone from buying a house. Live further out. Its a choice. No one is forcing you into an apartment.

  • Elsleuith Eagle Mountain, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 9:32 a.m.

    High density housing does not have the pride of ownership that a SFR has.

    Morgan Duel is correct. These projects will result in slums with no pride of ownership. Builders, politicians and the DN need to look at ways to make single family residences possible. If there was a train to Cedar Valley it could house a million people. Come on. Think creatively. Make this state something to be proud of.

  • andyjaggy American Fork, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 8:42 a.m.

    @ute alumni, we can't even fill the reservoirs we already have, why would we spend massive amounts of money to build more?

    I have been saying this for a while now. You can't have your cake and eat it to. If you want large families, and I have 4 kids myself, then you can't simultaneously turn around and complain about high density housing, small yards, and loss of farmland.

    Personally I would rather see more higher density housing than more urban sprawl and loss of our open lands. Perhaps my views are shaped from my time in Japan, where despite an enormous population, there was still a lot of open land due to people being concentrated in the cities instead of sprawling out across the landscape.

  • Flipphone Sandy, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 8:42 a.m.

    All the comments but one are hysterical, The Wasatch front is running out of affordable land to build affordable housing on, Question...(.what does the term affordable mean?) buy or rent high density housing, or, move to a less populated area of the state, and get there before everyone else does.

  • Brett AA Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 8:31 a.m.

    If these comments are any indication of the community, this will be a very contentious issue for years to come. This editorial is spot on. It recognizes certain realities about how much land we have left to develop and how our current sprawl development necessitates car dependence which is the most expensive type of development. Density is coming that is for sure. It will allow for more public transit options which will allow more people to not own a car. Also, the idea that high density is related to crime and slums is a myth.

  • Noodlekaboodle Poplar Grove, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 8:30 a.m.

    It's already happening. Most of my friends from high school(graduated in the late 2000's) Have moved out of state because the salaries they can make here don't match up with the cost of living. Look at the kind of houses you can get in Phoenix, Grand Junction, Spokane, Boise, Chico or Las Vegas compared to what you get for the same price in Salt Lake. It's crazy the difference. My wife and I are selling our 2 bed 1 bathroom house on the west side of SLC(not the greatest neighborhood, 900sq ft house on .20 acres) for 30K less it will cost us to buy a 5 bed, 3 bad 3200 sq ft house in Spokane on .40 acres. Plus there is no income tax in Washington. And i got a job where I actually make more money. What is the point of staying in SLC with our lower than average wages and higher cost of living?

  • Den Den West Jordan, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 7:49 a.m.

    @Morgan Duel - You hit the nail on the head! This is a dangerous direction, to say the least!

    When you look at what these potential slum lords are getting in's ridiculous! They are taking advantage of in debt citizens who cannot afford, especially in these inflated and overpriced real estate markets, the down payment or qualify for a loan to buy their own home.

  • VIDAR Murray, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 7:36 a.m.

    As it is now many people pay more in rent for an apartment than they would for a mortgage on a house. Others pay much more for a high end condo than they would for a house. We need to build more affordable apartments for young people starting out.

  • ute alumni Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 6:55 a.m.

    Choice is most important. Water is critical and I see nothing happening in building reservoirs. Real mistake. Capital Hill area is looking like Pueblo living. WAY over building.

  • Shaun Sandy, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 6:45 a.m.

    High density requires better transportation solutions. We don’t have that along the wasatch front.

  • Morgan Duel Taylorsville, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 4:14 a.m.

    Twenty five or 30 years from now these high density houses will be listed as the Herriman Slums with high crime and kids dying because of gang violence! Why can’t you see that!!

  • a_voice_of_reason Woods Cross, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 12:40 a.m.

    @Orem Parent:

    "That's a horrible opinion.

    We don't want to be packed in like sardines.

    We like to have a family home, with a small yard where the kids can play.

    Why is it so hard for newspapers and city councils to see that?"

    My preferences match yours. I have a single-family home with a fairly large yard. That's what our family wanted. We saved for it, and we were able to make it happen. That said, it's not everybody's dream, nor is it feasible for everyone to have that. The editorial board is right. We can either allow high-density housing, or we will either have massive tax increases to pay for transportation infrastructure making commutes from Nephi to Salt Lake reasonable, or our population will stagnate (followed by our economy) as young families leave the state to go where they can afford a home for less than an apartment here. It's math, not a question of personal preferences. There will always be plenty of single-family homes with yards. An apartment complex going up in your city/town will not require the demolition of your house. Open your minds Utah.

  • Shuzzie53 Hayward, CA
    Sept. 13, 2018 12:21 a.m.

    Why should Utah escape it? It’s happening everywhere else.

  • SAS Sandy, UT
    Sept. 13, 2018 12:11 a.m.

    @Orem Parent:

    Sure, you want a home with a yard and space for the kids to play. Great. So does everyone else. And Utah no longer has the available land--to say nothing of the water, or the transportation infrastructure--for that to be a realistic goal.

    Supply and demand economics says that if the resource is scarce, the price will go up. Are you prepared to spend 40% of your income on that house and yard? 50%? 60%? More? And what of the people who can't afford such luxury? Where will they live?

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Sept. 12, 2018 11:19 p.m.

    "As in Holladay, residents have resisted plans for relatively high-density housing on the site of the former Cottonwood Mall, arguing the project will detract from the town’s village-like atmosphere".

    What is more important? A village like atmosphere for some, or housing for all?

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Sept. 12, 2018 11:14 p.m.

    Ah come on, Mcmansions sitting on 2 acres of land each are Utah's future.

  • Orem Parent Orem, UT
    Sept. 12, 2018 10:56 p.m.

    That's a horrible opinion.

    We don't want to be packed in like sardines.

    We like to have a family home, with a small yard where the kids can play.

    Why is it so hard for newspapers and city councils to see that?