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APA Utah Legislative Position Statement

February 6, 2024 by Nicole Masson

The Utah Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA UT) recognizes that housing is a statewide issue that requires action at both the state and local levels. We support a thoughtful and collaborative approach to finding a solution that considers our communities’ diverse needs.

Before adopting specific standards, further study and discussion are necessary to ensure that any proposed solutions are practical and equitable. We also believe that impact fees should be accessed for providing services to a new home, just like in any other development, to mitigate the impact and help fund the capital cost of the additional public services, infrastructure, or transportation facilities necessitated by, and attributable to, new development.

On a national level, the American Planning Association believes collaboration is key when setting policy and upholds six principles driving its Action Agenda as follows:

  1. Modernize State Planning Laws
  2. Reform Local Codes
  3. Promote Inclusionary Growth
  4. Remove Barriers to Multifamily Housing
  5. Turn NIMBY Into YIMBY
  6. Rethink Finance

In line with these principles, APA UT supports creative statewide solutions to the state’s housing crisis that involve the collaboration of legislators, policy makers, planners, developers, advocates, and residents. Housing is a statewide issue, and we agree with the need for action at the state and local level to address this issue.

APA UT OPPOSES HB306 on the basis of a lack of such collaboration.

Details of potential solutions such as HB306 are a step in the right direction, but should be discussed with all players ahead of time to ensure some level of agreement and collaboration in order to ensure the policies are able to be effectively implemented. APA Utah would support a bill like HB306 if key players were able to to collaborate on the following items before a bill is passed into law for Utah’s planners to successfully implement:

A.                 Definition of Starter Home
Is ⅛ acre a size that will make a difference in what housing products are offered? Will smaller lot sizes result in smaller homes? Do cities have the capacity to service increased density on a per residential unit basis (i.e. water, sewer, utilities)?

B.                 Limits on House Sizes
Will a limit on starter home sizes be more effective than a regulation on lot size? Will this increase affordability or increase the price per square foot of new housing products?

C.                 Design Considerations
Will smaller lots or smaller homes fit into neighborhoods with larger lots and larger homes? Are there any design standards that need to be implemented to foster a good fit or transition between various housing types and sizes? Also, automatically allowing structures in flood zones is problematic.

D.                 “One Size Misfits All”
Legislation that would increase moderately priced housing supply should recognize that communities differ in their urban, suburban, and rural context, and that there are also differing contexts within each city. Mechanisms are needed to tailor the provision of housing opportunities to the locations within cities that make the most sense for those opportunities.

E.                  Deed Restrictions
The cost to implement this bill is not addressed. Who is meant to manage and enforce deed restrictions on an annual basis? Some cities have housing staff and existing administrative processes to review and enforce such mechanisms, but most do not.

F.                  Impact Fees
Who will cover the cost of impacts to other services if impact fees are waived? Limiting impact fees limits municipalities’ ability to service new structures. Costs still need to be addressed and will likely be transferred to existing residents or other new developments.

G.                 Additional Study/Discussion Needed

While the overall goal to increase access to purchase property to build the “American Dream” is noble, the solution will only be found in a thoughtful collaborative approach. For Utah’s planners, May 2024 is not a reasonable timeline to understand the impacts of the proposed changes and enact them into zoning and development codes, especially when cities were not involved in the details and drafting of this bill.

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