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Dear Draper Residents,

Utah housing prices are spiraling out of control. In the last five years, median housing prices increased over 60%. Demand continues to outstrip supply and the problem has been exacerbated by sudden work- from-home out-of-state migration brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The secret is out—Utah is a great place to live.

The housing affordability crisis represents our state’s biggest impediment to continued economic prosperity. As housing prices outpace median wage gains, Utahns increasingly find housing costs consuming more of their monthly budgets. Many residents are struggling to find a decent place to live.

It is no surprise that our elected representatives at the Capitol are fervently and frantically searching for policy solutions. They should be supported in these efforts.

However, any policy must carefully calibrate the balance between quality of life, existing property rights and local zoning and planning authority with the housing affordability crisis.

One attempt to mitigate the housing crisis comes from Representative Ray Ward in the form of HB82. Under HB82, an internal ADU (“accessory dwelling unit”; think mother-in-law apartment) is a permitted use in ANY zone permitting exterior ADUs. This means that any single family residence can essentially be converted into a multi-family rental unit. In practical terms, this bill would allow homeowners to convert basements into rental units virtually anywhere in the city. Note: this new proposal deviates from Draper City’s current policy, which allows for external ADUs, but not internal ADUs.

This bill would strip Draper City’s authority to preserve neighborhood character and carefully plan around parking issues and traffic congestion. Imagine cars lining your street in a scenario where neighboring homes all converted into duplexes.

This is a stunning overreach by our legislature, which often ironically preaches local control and “states’ rights” when the federal government intrudes in state affairs, but which seems increasingly comfortable meddling in the local business of municipalities. Recall the Geneva Rock debacle back in 2018, where Geneva threatened Draper City with a bill at the Capitol that would grant Geneva unlimited mining rights on Steep Mountain.

Furthermore, how does adding a new rental income stream to an existing single family home help the housing affordability crisis? Certainly rental supply would increase, potentially driving down rent prices, but if our goal is home ownership, HB82 does nothing to correct the supply/demand imbalance. If anything it intensifies the problem, leaving more Utahns priced out of home ownership.

I support our state representatives’ efforts to address the housing crisis and I support a robust view of property rights (new homeowners and existing homeowners); however I do not support top-down, “one size fits all” solutions that do not allow adequate room for local decision making.

Your voice ought to determine the character of your community, not distant politicians unfamiliar with the diverse and varied needs of our neighborhoods.

Agree or disagree, let me know what you think—

Councilman Cal Roberts