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Utah’s quality of life drops; housing costs among top concerns

By Ladd Egan, KSL TV | Posted - Sep. 13, 2018 at 8:00 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — The quality of life in the Beehive State has decreased over the past five years, according to a survey from the Utah Foundation that shows the lack of affordable housing as the top concern.

“While people individually may feel pretty good about things, they’re seeing that their community quality of life maybe isn’t as good as it was five years ago,” said Shawn Teigen, the research director for the Utah Foundation.

Utah’s 'quality of life' drops 3 points in 5 years

For 2018, the Utah Foundation Community Quality of Life Index dropped to 70 out of 100 points — down from 73 in 2013.

“It may not seem like a lot but that is a statistically significant decrease,” Teigen said. “We can pretty comfortably say that quality of life has decreased over that period of time.”

The availability of good jobs was the only portion in the community index that improved. Areas of concern included air and water quality, public schools, streetscapes, traffic, availability of green spaces and affordable housing.

Researchers said the top concern was that, “Utah’s rapidly rising housing costs have made many Utahns feel like rents and ownership are no longer affordable.”

“Jobs and the economy used to be at the bottom of the list. It has changed places with affordable housing,” Teigen explained. “Affordable housing is now by far the bottom of the list and it’s a concern.”

Real estate agent Eric Gardiner with Blackwell Realty Group said potential homebuyers and renters have struggled because of a general shortage of affordable housing.

“Builders can’t keep up, and then you see all the apartments being built around downtown. They’re all pretty high-end, luxury type stuff,” Gardiner said.

Home prices were expected to continue to rise, he said, as homebuyers compete to get an offer accepted — sometimes against people moving into the state with more purchasing power.

“I’ve had some clients that get frustrated, and they eventually quit looking,” Gardiner said. “They just get discouraged. They’re like, ‘Maybe now is not the time.’”

Photo: KSL TV

Utah Governor Gary Herbert said as the fastest growing state, it’s expected that Utah will have these types of growth issues.

“It’s an outcome of our success,” Herbert said.

Herbert said the state was looking at ways to keep housing affordable by working with homebuilders and local governments to examine zoning and other solutions.

“We have more jobs than we have people, so housing now is feeling that pinch and the cost of housing is going up,” he said.

In releasing the index, Utah Foundation officials said it’s perhaps surprising that Utah’s booming economy did not elevate residents’ overall perceptions of quality of life on the community level.

“Utahns living along the Wasatch Front, those who are religiously affiliated, and those with higher incomes all reported better community quality of life,” they said about the key findings of the survey. “Those respondents who identified with a religion indicated a higher community quality of life on 19 of 20 aspects on the index.”

In addition to the community index, the Utah Foundation also measured personal quality of life for a separate index. On that personal index, whether respondents felt financial secure was the lowest performing factor.

“Not surprisingly, income, age and location play a part in Utahns’ perceptions of quality of life. Religious affiliation is also one of the most consistent pillars of community satisfaction and personal happiness in our state,” said Utah Foundation President Peter Reichard in a prepared statement. “The findings also reveal significant areas of concern, including affordable housing, air quality, community appeal and traffic.”

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