Middle Housing Study Part I: The Scope of the Challenge

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The Utah Foundation’s new study, Is the Middle Missing? A Guide to Expanding Options for Utah Homebuyers and Renters, explores “Missing Middle Housing” through four installments. The first installment, “The Scope of the Challenge,” examines Utah’s housing problem and introduces middle housing as one means of addressing it.

“Missing Middle Housing” is a term that encompasses a variety of multi-unit housing buildings that are house-scale, facilitate neighborhood walkability, accommodate changing demographics and preferences, and are available to people with a range of incomes. Middle housing offers the potential to increase the supply of housing, but in a way that is not objectionable to most neighbors and with a standard of design that can improve upon the neighborhoods. There are obstacles to increasing this type of housing, though they are not insurmountable.


  • More than 80% of Utahns feel that home prices and rents are too high. Indeed, the cost of housing in Utah has been skyrocketing – with a year-over-year appreciation of 29% at September 2021.
  • From 2010 to 2021, an inflation-adjusted mortgage payment with 10% down on a median-priced Utah home increased by $469 from $1,131 to $1,600.
  • Over time, the cost of lower-priced homes has increased more than higher-priced ones, so the attainability of homeownership with affordable mortgages has disappeared for some Utahns.
  • Most respondents to the recent Utah Foundation development-preference survey do not think they could afford the homes they currently own if they wanted to purchase them today.
  • Nearly 90% of survey respondents are worried about housing costs, but even more are worried about young Utahns’ costs.
  • Rents in Utah have increased dramatically during the past 20 years, and especially in just the last two years; for example, Davis County and Utah County rents increased more than 50% from January 2019 to July 2021.
  • Utah’s rapid population growth is projected to continue. While the younger population is expected to shrink in percentage terms, the number of young households is expected to grow in sheer numbers – suggesting a need for lower-cost, entry-level housing options.
  • The increases in home prices and rents are due in part to Utah’s 45,000 housing-unit shortfall – the difference between new households and new residential dwellings since the Great Recession.
  • Middle housing is a possible answer in terms of prices. For instance, in Salt Lake County, the August 2021 median (or middle) sale price of townhomes was $390,000, while for single-family homes, the median sale price was $546,450.

Read the full report: Is the Middle Missing? A Guide to Expanding Options for Utah Homebuyers and Renters – The Scope of the Challenge

Special thanks to Salt Lake County, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, the Utah League of Cities and Towns, the Wasatch Front Regional Council and Y2 Analytics for providing project-based support.

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