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The Cache County Mayors Association has been asked to help deal with what's being described as the Cache Valley's worst housing shortage in memory.

Hundreds of people are commuting to the valley daily from as far away as Ogden, Bear Lake, Tremonton and Idaho border cities because there is no local housing available, the association was told Saturday by Jack Nixon, a real estate broker and past president of the Logan Board of Realtors.Although there has been a rapid enrollment increase at Utah State University, many of the people coming in are not students but families drawn by work at Weslo, E.A. Miller or one of the many new high-tech businesses that have opened in the last few years, he said.

Because of the housing demand, landlords are able to get about any price they want, and rents have soared 25 to 40 percent since last year.

"This was all right at first because there had been little increase for several years," Nixon said. "But the situation is extremely hard for families who cannot afford the higher rate, and some have been forced into the streets."

Only four years ago there was a 20 percent vacancy rate and at least 600 homes for sale in the valley, the mayors were told.

"Now we have long waiting lists. People are approving rentals over the phone without seeing them, and I recently put a family in a model home where they are all sleeping on the floor," Nixon said.

He encouraged the mayors to consider relaxing zoning restrictions in their communities, even if only on a temporary basis, and to start issuing conditional-use or special-use permits to help relieve the crisis.

There has been some construction during the past couple of years, but many developers who own land and want to build are unable to get financing, Nixon said.

"Interest rates are lower, but because of the savings and loan debacle, problems with the insurance industry and federal regulations affecting banking, money for multiple housing units is almost impossible to get," he said.

The 19-member mayors group was receptive to Nixon's ideas, and members said they would study the issue further.