Springdale least affordable place to live in Utah, despite town’s efforts

ST. GEORGE — The place with the least affordable housing in Utah is none other than the town of Springdale, according to UnitedStatesZipCodes.org.

The site calculates the affordability of a town’s housing by dividing the median home price by the residents’ median household income, and anything under 3 is considered affordable. 

Utah’s median score is 4 and has risen by 6.1% this year. Springdale, which ranked No. 1, received a score of 12.7, with the median home price being $551,900 and the median income $61,471.

Springdale is followed by neighboring Rockville in second place with a score of 10.2, based on a median home price of $333,300 and a median income of $50,625. Kanarraville ranked third with a score of 9.7. 

Several other Southern Utah areas, including St. George, Cedar City, Ivins, Washington City, Dammeron Valley, Pine Valley, Leeds and Veyo, were among the bottom 50 in affordability. 

The area with the most affordable housing is Monument Valley, whose median home value of $34,600 and median household income of $18,750 gave it a score of 1.5 in affordability. Monument Valley was closely followed by Tridell with a score of 1.6 and Hinckley with a score of 2. 

While Park City beat Springdale for the most expensive housing, with an average home price of $729,900, its median household income is also significantly higher at $83,202, making the expensive cost of living more affordable for the people living there and giving it a housing affordability score of 9.1. 

The topic of affordable housing has been a concern for many Springdale residents for quite some time and was identified as one of the town’s most pressing issues by many of the Town Council candidates this year

The welcome sign in Springdale, Utah, June 15, 2019 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

Tom Dansie, the director of community development in Springdale, said that while the town has tried to provide affordable housing, it has been difficult to do so.

Nestled in the canyon just outside of Zion National Park, the lack of space, high cost of land and higher construction costs, due to the town’s distance from contractors and suppliers, have made the cost of building, purchasing and renting homes more expensive. 

“The combination of high real estate prices and higher construction costs has really limited or impaired the town’s ability to promote affordable housing in Springdale,” Dansie said. 

Springdale Mayor Stan Smith said that the lack of affordable housing has made it so that very few new families are moving to Springdale and has forced many of the town’s employees to live in other communities and commute hours to get to work. 

“We’d love to find a way to get housing so that the workers that work here in Springdale could afford to live in Springdale,” Smith said. “Just about anyplace in the county, we have somebody coming from there.”

The town currently has one affordable housing development, the Redhawk Apartments.

The Redhawk Apartments, which provides income-restricted housing, has a waitlist that is currently five years long. 

Smith said that while the town would like more housing like the Redhawk Apartments to be built, it’s nearly impossible to do. The apartments were originally built by Color Country Community Housing Inc., a now-closed nonprofit dedicated to developing affordable housing. 

Because it was a nonprofit, the company was able to access government and grant funding, allowing it to develop the building and still be able to charge affordable rent, something that developers in the town of Springdale simply can’t do. 

“We’d like to have more of those, but after looking into it, to duplicate that process, you can’t do it,” Smith said. “It just doesn’t pencil out.”

While the town is able to apply for most of the government and grant funding that the nonprofit could, the rising affordable housing crisis in the state has made receiving this funding more competitive. 

The town currently offers development incentives to encourage builders to include affordable or employee housing in their building project in exchange for certain exceptions to the town’s policies on building size and height, increased density, reduced setbacks or reduced amounts of required landscaping. 

While these incentives have helped to produce some affordable housing, it has not been as successful as town officials would like, and at the last town council meeting on July 10, they said they were planning to decide which, if any, of the incentives the town should continue to offer. 

The council has passed an ordinance to allow cottage housing, which aims to provide housing that, while not considered affordable, would be more affordable than most other Springdale homes. The council also implemented an ordinance allowing people to rent their guest houses or mother-in-law apartments on a long-term basis to provide more housing options instead of vacation rentals.

Since most of the town’s efforts to provide affordable housing have produced limited results, the town council has allocated money in their fiscal year budget to go towards hiring a housing consultant to help them develop a plan to provide more affordable housing options. 

“When we get that consultant on board and do that plan, hopefully we’ll have some more ideas and some more strategies to provide more affordable housing in the town,” Dansie said. 

The town’s fiscal year began July 1, and Dansie said they hope to hire a consultant soon and be underway with a study by the end of this calendar year. 

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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