Wasatch Front inflation surges with the rising cost of houses, gasoline

(Al Hartmann | Salt Lake Tribune file photo) Even with more apartments popping up all over, a shortage of single-family homes on the market has resulted in a surge in housing prices — for both owner-occupied homes and rental apartments — that lifted the Wasatch Front's year-over-year inflation rate to 3.9 percent in April.

Rising housing and gasoline costs caused the inflation rate to rise by 3.9 percent over the past year along the Wasatch Front, the biggest annual increase since September 2012.

The Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index (CPI) went up 1.9 percent from March to April alone, solidifying the year-over-year figure, which was considerably higher than the 2.5 percent inflation rate measured by the National CPI.

In a market already facing a price-boosting shortage of homes on the market, climbing interest rates are making mortgages more expensive. The housing shortage also is contributing to higher rental rates for apartments, said Zions Bank President Scott Anderson.

“As more and more people move to Utah, the demand for housing increases,” he added. “If wages in Utah can keep pace, then the value of homes will continue to grow in the long-term. In the short-term, it looks like housing costs are going to keep inching up.”

The Salt Lake Board of Realtors said recently that the median price of a home ($340,000) in Salt Lake County in the year’s first quarter rose 13.3 percent since the first three months of 2017.

About the same time, a study by the University of Utah’s Kem Gardner Policy Institute showed wage growth was not coming close to keeping pace with soaring sticker prices for homes, raising concerns that the gap could end up hurting Utah’s competitiveness in attracting business investment.

Gas prices also figured prominently in the monthly gain. A 50 cents-per-gallon bump from March to April was the largest monthly gas-price increase in three years.

“Seasonal demand for gas only partially explains the change in gas prices,” said Randy Shumway, chairman of Cicero Group, which collected and analyzed the data for Zions Bank.

He also cited production cuts by OPEC countries and concern about what happens with Iran now that President Donald Trump has walked away from a treaty limiting nuclear testing in the Middle Eastern country and re-instituting trade restrictions.

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