One sad side-effect of Utah County’s recent growth is that, as demand for housing rises sharply while supply lags behind it, average home prices are rising at about 10% per year, which is significantly higher than inflation. These trends may please some current homeowners who are seeing their assets rise in relative value, but it is also rendering local housing significantly less affordable for new homebuyers and/or renters, especially as wages remain stagnant.
In a healthy free-market economy, whenever demand for something (such as low-cost housing) rises, suppliers normally rush to satisfy that demand. If that’s not happening, then it suggests that there’s some sort of problem, which is usually political.
So, what is Provo’s city government doing to exacerbate such problems?
Provo’s city government already imposes limits on how many people can rent rooms together at a given residence. And its Vision 2030 asserts that Provo has “too many” renters and not enough homeowners and, as such, it proposes to restrict rental housing within Provo city limits while essentially redistributing Provo’s renters to other parts of Utah County. Such policies, which artificially restrict the supply of rental housing within Provo, raise everyone’s rent.
Within the last ten years, Provo city council members have also discussed enhancing zoning restrictions by adding form-based code to regulate not only the inward function but also the outward appearance of new buildings. And, at Vision 2030 meeting in 2016, they even entertained the possibility of mandatory city-regulated landscaping for every residence. Such restrictions impede the supply of new housing (whether to rent or to own) while needlessly rendering it more costly.
Moreover, Provo’s city code does not currently accommodate “tiny homes,” which are currently growing in popularity as some Americans seek simpler less-expensive housing in order to spend their earnings on other pursuits.
And what is Provo’s government doing to alleviate such problems?
Provo’s current “solutions” mostly center around increased political intervention into the marketplace through taxes, regulations, subsidies, partnerships, et cetera, to finagle the market into producing more of the sort of housing that its other policies are inhibiting from being built. Such public-sector solutions are normally both less efficient and more costly than their private-sector alternatives, and they tend to yield either mixed or even counterproductive results.
Rather than pursue a slow step-by-step course toward a state-run economy, we should instead advocate for genuinely-free markets, in which people’s rights to both property and contract are respected rather than usurped. If you agree, then please voice such opinions to our local politicians while they are now actively considering what policies to pursue to render local housing more affordable.
- Provo Daily Herald: “7 small facts about tiny homes in Utah” (2018 Aug 25)
- Provo Daily Herald: “Major housing affordability issues, answers explored at housing summit in Orem” (2019 Jun 01)
- Provo City: “Affordable Housing Efforts” (2019 Jun 17)
- Utah Business: “Housing Affordability Is Key to Utah’s Economic Future” (2019 May 27)
- Free Provo: Problems: Violating Natural Rights: Property-Rights Violations
- Free Provo: Problems: Violating Natural Rights: Contractual Violations
- Free Provo: Problems: Envisioning Statism: Dictating Development
- Free Provo: Problems: Envisioning Statism: Overseeing Construction
- Free Provo: Problems: Envisioning Statism: Redistributing Demographics
- Facebook: Free Provo