As a leading force in finding solutions to Utah’s affordable housing crisis, the Utah Association of REALTORS® has a clear understanding of the swift and complex growth along the Wasatch Front, the north-south-running urban chain where roughly 80% of the state’s population is concentrated. So, when the education lobby proposed that Utah remove its prohibition on school impact fees for new development, the REALTORS® set about correcting the underlying faulty logic behind the attempt with an informative campaign supported by an Issues Mobilization Grant.
The REALTORS® believe that, as now structured, property taxes on new development account for any new students moving into the newly developed neighborhoods. “Impact fees would not account for students moving into and out of existing homes, so it’s not a sound way to fund education growth,” explains Cate Klundt, Utah REALTORS®’ Government Affairs Director. She also notes that there had been significant turnover in both the Utah House and Senate since the last time impact fees had been considered for education funding, so it was high time for the REALTORS® to share their expertise and information with the legislature. The campaign launch was the centerpiece of the 2020 REALTOR® Day at the Capitol, which was highly attended by lawmakers as well as more than 50 elected municipal officials from up and down the Wasatch Front, by special invitation of the REALTORS®.
With the global pandemic dominating the news cycle, however, the campaign itself didn’t get the public-facing play they had hoped for; however, the video that the association produced is fairly timeless, so Klundt believes it will still have a life when the housing market gets back to ‘normal.’
Fortunately, she explains, the state REALTOR® association has a very good relationship with much of the state legislature, and was able to convince lawmakers to defuse the bill in session. “It’s actually very much the pattern in Utah,” she says: “Bills rarely come down to a floor vote. Much more likely, they’ll be subjected to lots of back-and-forth and compromise and collaboration. It’s effective, but not necessarily exciting politics!” As a result of this close work with individual legislators, many now have an appreciation for smart regional planning that doesn’t over-burden one city with residential development, another with more business and commerce, and still others with an abundance of commuting traffic, notes Klundt, adding, “It makes sense for Utah’s municipalities along the Wasatch Front to be interdependent.”
Looking ahead, Klundt believes that sound regional planning is what will lead to sustainable cities having the ability maintain their infrastructure and accommodate growth. “As municipalities come together to share transportation and education costs, it will be in their best interests, as a result of natural efficiencies, and because the state is really good at awarding funding to districts with strong regional plans.” It’s no coincidence that the REALTORS® have been pushing for such incentives for years. In fact, in the 2020 legislative session, the state also awarded $10 million to an affordable housing fund – something the REALTORS® had promoted in 2019.
To learn more about how Utah’s REALTORS® are working to find long-term solutions to support education and increase affordable housing with the help of the REALTOR® Party, contact Government Affairs Director Cate Klundt, at 702-767-3994.