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People are still moving to Utah. Where are they coming from?

People are still moving to Utah. Where are they coming from?

Californians continue to move to the Beehive State, though in smaller numbers

<bsp-timestamp data-timestamp="1703017450000"> Dec 19, 2023, 1:24pm MST</bsp-timestamp>

As Utah continues to grow, it’s no surprise that the largest number of new residents comes from California. But it’s not the only state driving the Beehive State’s population growth.

In 2022, Utah saw an influx of 91,341 new residents, according to recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the top 10 states feeding Utah:

  1. California, 18,669.
  2. Washington, 8,845.
  3. Idaho, 7,774.
  4. Texas, 7,070. 
  5. Arizona, 5,357. 
  6. Colorado, 5,327. 
  7. Nevada, 3,549. 
  8. Florida, 3,025. 
  9. Oregon, 2,413. 
  10. New York, 2,236. 

Emily Harris, a demographic analyst at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, told the Deseret News last year that the number of Californians moving to Utah isn’t surprising given California’s sheer size. It’s the most populated state in the nation and has seen significant domestic net out-migration for decades. Plus, Utah is fairly close to the Golden State.

And Utah isn’t even in the top 10 states that have received the most new residents from California. The number in Utah pales in comparison to the over 50,000 Californians that move to states like Arizona, Texas, Nevada and Washington, according to Harris’ research.

The number of Californians heading to Utah last year dropped 20% from 23,219 in 2021.

Utah was the fastest-growing state in the country between the 2010 and 2020 censuses. Gov. Spencer Cox seemed to discourage Californians from moving to Utah when asked at a news conference in February what the state was doing to attract new residents.

“Our biggest problems are more growth-related. We would love for people to stay in California instead of coming as refugees to Utah,” the governor said. Cox said Utah’s biggest problems are housing and water.

Asked later in the news conference what he meant by saying people in California should stay there, Cox said, “What I mean is, we’ve had a lot of people move from California into our state. Growth is our biggest issue right now. So we would love to see California cutting taxes and regulations. I think that would be good.”

Rent or buy in today’s housing market?

The record in-migration continues to increase the demand for rental housing in the state, according to the Rental Housing Association of Utah

“Demand for rental housing has never been higher,” said Paul Smith, executive director of the Rental Housing Association of Utah. “Higher mortgage interest rates have sidelined many people from homeownership. This has placed even greater demand on all types of rentals.” 

The nonprofit trade association represents about 3,500 rental operators, ranging from basement apartment owners to large management companies, and more than 160,000 units.

In October, the Deseret News reported that high interest rates and record housing prices bolstered the argument for choosing to rent rather than buy.

Affordable housing plan

As part of his 2024-25 budget proposal, Cox unveiled an ambitious plan for the state to build 35,000 starter homes by 2028. It calls for a $150 million investment, including an additional $50 million for the First-time Homebuyer Assistance Program launched last year that subsidizes the purchase of newly built starter homes.

Record migration combined with higher interest rates is making Utah’s housing shortage worse, according to Smith.

During a building boom, Utah made up significant ground on its housing shortage, shrinking the gap from 56,800 units in 2017 to 28,400 units in 2022. But as homebuilding activity is expected to contract, new households will outnumber new housing units. Consequently, the housing shortage will likely increase to over 37,000 units by 2024, according to a September report from University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

Housing expert Dejan Eskic, a researcher at the institute, expects the shortage to last through the decade.

In 2022, there were 14,236 authorized permits for multifamily units on the Wasatch Front (Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber counties), down 25% from 19,081 permits in 2021, according to the rental association. In the first half of 2023, just 5,782 permits were approved for apartments, town houses and condominiums. 

Committee to Elect Megan Ratchford
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