By Julie Johansen
The Housing Subcommittee of the Emery County Business Chamber met on Monday to further discuss affordable housing in Emery County. As the meeting began, Ethan Migliori explained that affordable housing just means housing prices that an average salary earner can afford.
In the previous meeting in November, water issues for building were discussed. At Monday’s meeting, Janis O’Brein, a contractor from Utah County, was invited to discuss housing from a contractor’s point of view. O’Brein virtually addressed the attendees, including business leaders, Association of Government representatives, and civic leaders.
Tyler Jeffs introduced O’Brein, who had been in the housing contractor business for over 20 years and has experience in both urban and some rural communities. He explained that entry level homes begin at about $250,000 to $300,000, but are hard to find at those prices.
His advice was that the city mayor, planner or economic development leader first need to identify the problem. In order to do this, they need to understand the position of the buyer. Are they coming to work and find a place to live? Is the need for a family or for retirees who are wanting to size down?
Buyers will ask what the opportunities are, such as if there subsidies available. This includes the questions of what money is available, who gets it and how to get it.
O’Brein then broke down the costs of building, stating that 2/3 of the cost is the stick and bricks, then the lot to build on, and utilities. The cost of the materials has become a major crisis and utilities are a big question. The first story of the home is most expensive, thus many have been building up instead out.
Some city codes are prohibitive and some subdivisions are not family suitable. Some are moving from urban to rural just because it is more affordable, while others prefer a rural lifestyle with bigger lots and more room.
O’Brein said that there are five considerations as a contractor: 1. The strength of the market. 2. Are the utilities present at the site? 3. Will the city welcome the developer? 4. The cost of the land. 5. The cost of construction in the area.
A discussion began about the communities in Carbon and Emery counties, questioning if the leadership in accordance with the development, do they want it and what kind. What about the size of building lots desired? Is it a move up project or a forever home? What about 55+ housing units? Maybe the communities here need all of it.
Other questions included where are the jobs and where are the living facilities. Most prefer a blending of communities, younger with the older. Most of all, the desire was to be super-inclusive. Comments stated some housing problems have arisen because of investors who do not plan to live in the homes but are willing to pay higher prices than those who are trying to find a place to live.
The concluding thought was that there is a housing crisis with business growth and housing needs. The timing is good to entice growth as there is an entrepreneurial mind set right now. It was advised to show the opportunities now and people will come. O’Brein advised to quantify the problem and decide how to solve it.
The next chamber housing meeting will be on Jan. 15, 2024 at the Castle Dale City building at 11:30 a.m. The guest speaker will be Joel Brown from Senator Mike Lee’s office. Anyone interested is invited to attend.