Is adding apartment buildings and condos to the Salt Lake Valley a good thing? What about all of those homes in places like South Jordan and Lehi?
A recent Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll finds that 49 percent of registered voters believe this construction is a “positive for the state.”
Another 27 percent claimed to be neutral on the idea, while 19 percent— or about 1 in 5 — viewed additional housing as a negative.
The results come as Utah is seeing dramatic population growth, with the number of residents now expected to rise from 3 million today to 4 million by 2032 and as high as 5 million by 2050.
The Beehive State also is leading the nation on several measures of economic growth amid low unemployment.
When viewed as gauging Utahns’ attitudes toward growth, the latest Tribune-Hinckley numbers roughly match recent findings from the regional planning group Envision Utah. A 2016 survey by the nonprofit indicated that 42 percent of Utahns supported more growth, while 37 percent were opposed.
That represented a dramatic shift from 1991, when the same group’s polling found that 85 percent of Utahns backed more growth and only 15 percent opposed it.
Additional Envision Utah polling suggested that while 42 percent of Utahns believed growth would improve the state, fully 35 percent thought it would make things worse.
The Tribune-Hinckley poll framed its question in terms of housing, stating, “The Wasatch Front is in the middle of a building boom, adding many apartments, condos, and single family homes,” before asking respondents if that was positive or negative.
While Utah is indeed adding housing — in particular, it is seeing a relative surge in apartment construction — its population growth has outstripped housing supplies for years. Experts, academics and business leaders say the state is actually in the midst of a housing shortage.
Recent studies estimate the current deficit between Utah households and available housing units — whether single-family homes, apartments, condos or townhomes — at 250,000 dwellings.
“From a business perspective, this is our biggest economic threat we’re not addressing,” Abby Osborne, the chamber’s vice president of public policy and government affairs, said in an interview.
Chamber officials warn the trend could begin to erode Utah’s quality of life and dampen economic growth. As part of what has been called the Housing Gap Coalition, they are urging adoption of more municipal zoning that allows a mix of housing types, including apartments and condos.
Registered voters were sampled in the wide-ranging Tribune-Hinckley poll that included questions about ballot initiatives and midterm election matchups and that appears to have skewed the responses toward homeowners as opposed to renters.
A separate question in the same survey found that 76 percent of respondents — 3 out of 4 — said they owned their homes, while 19 percent said they rented. That ratio differs from data from the U.S. Census Bureau, indicating that 30 percent of all Utah households are renters.
But one thing that appeared consistent in the poll was the near 50 percent of respondents who viewed new housing as a positive. There was little variation in support regardless of political affiliation or ideology, race or level of education — within the poll’s margin of error.
Variations based on age and religion were another matter.
The Tribune-Hinckley poll also found 60 percent respondents claiming no religious affiliation said they viewed additional housing in Utah as positive, while simple majorities of Protestants and members of the LDS Church viewed new housing favorably. That included Mormons who described themselves both as “very active” and “not active.”
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who said they were “somewhat active” were far more neutral on the question.
Age also appeared to make a difference in housing views. Registered voters between ages 18 and 55 said they were favorable toward new housing by well more than a 50 percent margin, while only 40 percent of those ages 65 and older favored the idea.
The poll, conducted by the Hinckley Institute of Politics from June 11 to June 18, has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points and included 654 registered voters statewide.