Utah’s tech boom is a double-edged sword
Utah’s housing and real estate boom are great for some businesses such as developers, real estate companies. The tsunami of new residents is mostly attracted to filling the open positions in Utah’s burgeoning tech sector. However, this boom is not helping non-tech workers middle-class workers, who make up 76% of Utah’s workforce.
Utah’s political leaders cheer on the economic boom with huge increases in tax revenue, but this booming economy is not helping Utah’s middle class or small business owners but making the most basic necessities of housing less affordable.
The catering to Utah’s tech boom has produced the side effect of Salt Lake City experiencing both a massive building boom and an affordable housing crisis. These conditions have been the major problem that Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle have witnessed for the past decade.
While hundreds of new units are currently under construction in downtown Salt Lake City, the homeless people we spoke to out in front of Rio Grand’s Homeless Resource Center (Rene from Miami, and Eric from Maryland) don’t believe they will ever be able to afford to live in this housing. Instead, they believe their best hope is to obtain free government housing.
California’s current exodus is due to the failed policies of California’s political leadership. In what is being called “The Mass California Exodus” thousands of middle class residents are leaving due to the burdensome policies that especially harm the working poor and middle income earners. The LA Times report this exodus is intensifying in 2021.
Utah’s Strong Middle Class and Pro-Small Business Environment
Utah’s middle class has always been extremely strong and our small business environment has been one of the best in the country due to offering entrepreneurs low taxes and little regulation. But the current housing shortage is causing real estate prices to escalate to the point where the middle class is being forced out of most Salt Lake City areas, and starting a small business is becoming less realistic when housing becomes such a large percentage of average worker’s take-home pay.
Utah’s Housing Crisis
Last year the zip codes in and around Salt Lake City rose on average by around 20%. Holladay, Utah saw a 35% increase in real estate prices, Murray, Utah 30%. The housing boom and shortage is affecting Utah’s middle class the most, pricing out many people who can no longer afford to buy a home.
This trend begs the question: Is this massive influx of people from California actually good for Utah overall? If there are more people priced out of the market, and Salt Lake City’s affordable housing gets all replaced with more luxury apartments, will we witness the essential disappearance of the middle class from Salt Lake City?
Not if our new Governor Spencer Cox recognizes this problem and actually takes measures to protect Utah’s non-tech small businesses and non-tech middle class. (as California Governor Gavin Newsom has failed to do).
Meanwhile, there are not enough resources to help the homeless in Salt Lake City who actually want to work. “If you have SSI (Supplemental Security Income), they are much more willing to help, than if you are struggling and want to work,” said Eric Vini to Utah Stories, a man who was out in front of the Homeless Resource Center on Rio Grande Street.
Watch the entire Utah Stories show podcast below for all of our interviews and examination of the issues
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