Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced his Helping Open Underutilized Space to Ensure Shelter or HOUSES Act to help local government units address housing supply and affordability in their jurisdictions. The federal government owns more than two-thirds of the land in Utah. Utah is also among the states with the most competitive housing markets and limited housing supply. This limited supply has led home prices in the state to rise 24.5% from 2020 to 2021. Coupled with historic inflation, rising house prices are making life less affordable for Western families.
The HOUSES Act helps solve the land and housing shortage in Utah by allowing a state or local government unit to purchase parcels of federal land at a reduced price, giving them the ability to make facing housing constraints. The law requires the land to be used for housing, subject to a density requirement, and protects against the development of expensive second homes on purchased plots.
The invoice’s Senator Lee said, “Supply is not meeting housing demand in Utah, and federal government land ownership is a significant cause of our tight housing stock. The HOMES Act will responsibly release federal lands to keep Utah’s dream and promise alive. This bill will help ensure that Utah remains a place where families and communities can prosper, grow and prosper.”
Senator John Barasso (R-WY) said Bill, “Wyoming and the West are endowed with enormous resources, including vast tracts of land. As more and more people move to places like Wyoming, growing communities need options for expanding resident housing. The HOMES Act will provide many new options for state and local governments by allowing them to purchase certain federal government land for residential purposes. This has already happened in Nevada. It makes sense that other public land states have the same opportunities.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said: “As our state has grown rapidly over the past decade, housing prices have skyrocketed and housing affordability has become an increasing challenge for communities across our state – a challenge that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. We need to make finding and buying a home more accessible to everyone. However, with two-thirds of our state owned by the federal government, the ability of many communities to grow is prohibited by federal ownership. By increasing the amount of federal land that can be used for housing development, ranging from single-family homes to low-income housing and apartments, our legislation will begin to address our state’s housing shortages.”
Utah County Commissioner, Amelia Powers Gardner said: “Utah County faces a severe shortage of affordable housing that will require creative and innovative solutions. Senator Mike Lee’s HOUSES Act is one solution that could really get things done by helping secure more affordable housing in Utah County. Senator Lee’s HOUSES Act is an example of creative and innovative solutions to address the shortage of affordable housing in Utah County. The HOUSES Act would give local government an additional tool that could help address the lack of affordable housing in Utah County.”
President and CEO of the Cedar City Chamber of Commerce, Christopher M. McCormick said: “The HOUSES Act would have a significant impact on the affordable housing crisis[.] … The Cedar City Chamber of Commerce supports the HOUSES Act and urges our lawmakers to implement it as quickly as possible. This is not just a good plan for Utah, but for the nation as a whole, as this becomes a national problem.”
Washington City Councilman, Kurt Ivie said of Bill, “The median home price in Washington County reached $553,000 in February 2022. Housing is quickly becoming unaffordable and inaccessible for many of our residents. We need to find solutions that will allow the middle class to thrive in Washington. I thank Senator Lee for including me in this critical discussion and for introducing the HOUSING Act, a bill that will give municipalities another avenue by which they can increase the supply of more affordable housing. I support this concept as a way to ease pressure on the housing market. I look forward to working with Senator Lee and Utah communities to build support for this bill. It is a big question backed by an absolute need and Senator Lee’s bill is good policy.”
Chairman of the Legislative Committee of the Vernal Region Chamber of Commerce, Steve Evans said, “Like the rest of the state of Utah, Uintah County suffers from a severe shortage of affordable housing. Much of the Uintah County area is under the jurisdiction of the BLM and many of these large tracts of land are not usable for recreational or other public purposes. If passed, this law would allow counties like Uintah County to provide affordable housing opportunities. We strongly support Senator Lee’s efforts to pass the HOUSES Act.”
The National Association of Counties also supports the bill.
Senator Lee is joined by Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) as co-sponsors.
A page of the bill is available here.
The full text of the bill can be read here.