SALT LAKE CITY — Utah continued its home-building streak last year, outpacing every other state in the nation, show new figures released late Wednesday from the U.S. Census Bureau.
And two communities in the Beehive State ballooned faster than any other from coast to coast in the last decade.
In the southwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley, horse breeder Gary Kehl has watched Herriman double in size as homes have cropped up next to his barn.
Over the more than 15 years as he has raised and trained Arabians, a neighboring farm has transformed into a Maverik, a longtime pasture is slated to sprout car dealerships, and Kehl has parted with a sliver of his own land to make way for a new city road.
One good thing, Kehl said, is the neighbors can’t get enough of his horses. And he no longer spends hours wrangling 8-foot piles of tumbleweeds from the side of his barn. Condos nearby catch them first.
“I’m just totally encircled by condominiums and homes,” Kehl said. “I hope I can hang on for another 10 years before they push me out of here.”
Herriman was home to more than 51,300 as of July 2019 — up from about 21,700 in 2010. It’s the most rapid change for a city of more than 50,000 in the last decade, according to the census.
Sherrie Ohrn, a member of the Herriman City Council, said longtime residents have grumbled for several years as growth has sped to a gallop toward the valley’s last patches of open land.
“It’s simply because we are absorbing so much growth and have such a huge lack of infrastructure out here, that it becomes overwhelming,” Ohrn said. “Our residents just start to feel overwhelmed by the traffic and just the impact on our quality of life.”
After Salt Lake County approved the 6,300-home Olympia Hills project in Herriman earlier this year, its opponents launched a referendum to fight the development. But they dropped the effort amid beefed-up requirements for electronic signature-gathering prompted by the coronavirus outbreak that they said were unworkable.
The city has struggled to adapt to those already there, Ohrn said. Herriman has no full-time bus route, and often no way to avoid traffic on clogged city roads leading to I-15. The average resident spends more than $1,200 a year on transportation.
With that in mind, Ohrn said she and other leaders in Herriman recently negotiated with developers to ensure a planned apartment complex would go in near the Mountain View Corridor, instead of several miles farther away.
A half-hour drive south and just over the Utah County line, Vineyard, the former home of a Geneva Steel mill, has transformed into a bustling suburb, the census figures confirm. It swelled from less than 140 residents a decade ago to more than 11,800 last year, claiming the most rapid growth of any place in the nation of 1,000 or more.
Herriman and Vineyard have long been on the radar of state demographers, said Pamela Perlich, the director of demographic research at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.
“We knew that they were growing at extraordinary rates within the state,” said Perlich, who analyzed the census release and shared her findings with the Deseret News. “That was a surprise to me, that they popped up to the top of the entire nation.”
She noted pockets in other states like Florida, Texas and parts of the Mountain West have also welcomed newcomers in droves.
A separate census survey released Wednesday shows Utah, home to 3.1 million, is weathering the pandemic a bit better than the U.S. as a whole, with lesser rates of expected income loss, food scarcity, housing insecurity and delays in medical care. Like nearly all Americans, 100% of Utahns reported changes in K-12 schooling within their household.
Perlich and her colleagues expect the virus may stall Utahns’ plans to have kids and buy new homes in the short run. But they anticipate Utah’s economy will remain healthier than much of the nation, inviting job-seekers from other states.
Such newcomers are largely responsible for the state’s housing boom reflected in the new release, said James Wood, a senior fellow at the Gardner Institute.
From 2018 to 2019, the state’s housing stock grew 2.2%, up to a total of more than 1.1 million houses, apartments and other types of homes. It’s more than double the national rate of 0.8%.
Neighboring Idaho trailed just behind with a 2.1% growth rate, while Colorado and Texas tied for third place at 1.7%.
Wood said he expects the virus will cause rents in Utah to plateau because tenants have lost work. Homebuyers, however, are facing higher price tags and fewer options.
Home sales in April were down 17% from a year earlier, he said, but the median price — at about $375,000 — ticked up 6%, a similar increase from a year earlier.
Yet Wood remains optimistic for the long term, noting many homeowners and renters are getting assistance from the government.
“This is very different than in 2008. Households are in a lot better shape. The financial sector’s in a lot better shape,” Wood said. “It’s just a matter of how long this goes. If we have a second wave in the fall, it could get nasty.”
- The census data show Salt Lake County built the most new homes last year — about 7,700 — to bring its total to more than 411,400. Utah County has fewer than half the number of total homes but added more than 6,500.
- In the longer timeframe of the last decade, Utah comes in second at 15.7% for home growth, second only to North Dakota at 19.7%.