ST. GEORGE — While the city of St. George continues to approve new residential construction, efforts to bring down home and rental prices remain elusive.
The latest in the city’s efforts are three new residential subdivisions that are well on their way to becoming a reality. In a unanimous vote Thursday, the City Council voted to approve preliminary plats for the three individual subdivisions, which collectively total 144 homes.
Located at the intersection of 3000 East and 2000 South, north of the Southern Parkway at the eastern extension of White Dome Drive and at 1380 W. 5500 North, the three housing tracks may not make much of a dent in the shortage of available housing or reduce the median home price of $370,000, but city officials say they’re a step in the right direction.
Councilman Ed Baca is optimistic about the future of housing, saying that currently there are 400 new homes under construction, but there are still mountains to climb.
“We certainly have a shortage of attainable housing, and the three subdivisions that were approved last night were all pretty good size,” Baca said. “I don’t know what the sales range will be, but I imagine they will be in the $300,000 range.”
Baca would like to see developers build smaller housing units at a cost of between $200,000-$250,000 in the future. This would pave the way for affordable housing for everyday workers like teachers, nurses and police, he added.
“There is an assortment of people we are trying to engage who want to live here and work here,” Baca said. “Hopefully, our developers will help fill the vacuums that exist. I think we are hitting all the right spots.”
Along with affordable housing units, providing residents with inexpensive rentals is another challenge.
“It’s something that we are all working in unison, between the city, the county and the school districts, we are trying to address issues,” Baca said. “Many things are on the board, and we are trying to respond to them and be as sensitive as we can. Housing is being built, but it gets down to the cost factor and what the market will allow.”
According to the city, the average rental in Washington County is $1,400 a month.
Matt Loo, who previously served as St. George’s economic development director, agrees housing issues in Southern Utah are a tough nut to crack.
“When you talk about housing and the availability of houses, as well as affordable housing and rentals, if (cities) do the right things, we can cover all of these pieces as we move into the future,” Loo said. “If we can build a good inventory of quality apartments in preparation for people to purchase their first home, that’s a great step forward. The piece that the area needs is the apartment component that is in the 80 percent or lower of the median wage range.”
The median wage in St. George is $48,188 annually.
“The tough thing is that everything is economics and market-driven,” Loo said. “… Still, the process moves the population through the housing cycle that will ultimately allow (renters) to get into a home.”
Loo said he believes as the inventory goes up, rental prices will go down.
“This is a logical conclusion,” he said. “The more that is in the inventory, the more that’s in the marketplace, the cost should be affected.”
What’s important, Loo said, is that discussion on affordable housing is happening within organizations, leadership groups and city councils more than ever before.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.