Salt Lake City residents push for smaller lot sizes to address housing shortage

14 June, 2024

As Salt Lake City grapples with a housing shortage, some local residents said it’s time to reduce minimum lot sizes to make room for much-needed affordable family homes.

Some argue there is plenty of empty land within well-established neighborhoods across the city to build thousands of new homes.

Turner Bitton, a resident and member of Salt Lake City Neighbors for More Neighbors, said many neighborhoods, including Glendale on the west side and the Avenues on the east side, have sufficient empty land to support construction of affordable single-family houses.

“In a lot of cases, we are underutilizing land,” Bitton said.

Bitton pointed to the abundance of large lots that current zoning regulations prevent from being subdivided.

“We have many large lots that could allow for smaller homes, but our current zoning regulations don’t allow them to be split into smaller lots,” he said.

Bitton said there are many large lots throughout the city with one small, often older, house surrounded by large, unused yards that could easily provide space for several family homes. Owners could sell those smaller lots to a developer, or do the building themselves.

Salt Lake Neighbors for More Neighbors envisioned houses on smaller lotswith minimal yard space, garages on the ground floor and living spaces on the second and third floors. Although smaller, these homes would be significantly cheaper - in a price range that could attract young families buying their first house.

Since the 1990s, the minimum lot size for homes in Salt Lake City has been 5,000 square feet. Bitton’s group proposed reducing the minimum lot size to 1,400 square feet to address the housing shortage.

Salt Lake Neighbors for More Neighbors estimated a change in minimum lot size could create 4,000 new, affordable houses in the city.

The Salt Lake City Council is also considering minimum lot sizes as a possible solution to the affordable housing crisis.

Council members asked city planners to study the issue and present potential alternatives to the current 5,000-square-foot minimum lot size, which principal planner Aaron Barlow saw as a barrier.

“It limits the number of homes that can be put into the city,” Barlow said.

He said the alternatives presented to the council would also simplify some of the current zoning laws, which he described as confusing.

“I say ‘no’ a lot,” he said, referring to the limitations placed on city residents who often want to build other dwellings on their large lots.

Increasingly, Salt Lake residents look to modify their houses or add structures on their lots to house family members or earn extra income.

Barlow said that Salt Lake City’s housing market currently caters to those who can afford large homes or high-rent apartments, leaving middle-income families without affordable options.

“We have an affordability issue in this town where it’s difficult for families to move in,” he said.

Barlow said that changes in the law to create smaller minimum lot sizes would require support from residents across the city.

Currently, the Salt Lake City Council has not formally reviewed the options presented by the planning staff, nor have any public meetings been held or decisions made about potential changes to minimum lot sizes.

This piece originally appeared on KUTV2 website. Click here to read the original article.