96 South Main Street, PO Box 77, Nephi, Utah 84648 - Voice: 435 623-0525 - FAX: 435 623-4735
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AFFORDABLE RENTAL UNITS • These rental units are being built on 800 North and 100 West and will add to the affordable housing units needed in Juab County. Nephi will need approximately 800 more affordable housing units by 2030 to accommodate the needs of low income individuals, the Nephi City Council learned at a recent meeting.
By Myrna Trauntvein
Nephi has a moderate income housing plan which was recently updated as is done on a biannual basis.
The Utah State Legislature has required cities to include an affordable housing element as part of their general plan. Affordable housing is defined by the state to mean households of various incomes spending no more than 30 percent of their gross monthly income on housing expenses.
The moderate income housing plan makes it possible to obtain CIB funds.
“Nephi City is a fifth class city located in a very centralized location within the state of Utah,” said Seth Atkinson, city administrator. “This provides opportunities to many residents to commute to various parts of the state in reasonable amounts of time.”
With its proximity to the rapidly growing Utah County, Nephi has become a bedroom community for individuals seeking a lower cost of living, he said.
“Despite being the largest city in Juab County, it is considered rural by its residents,” said Atkinson.
It is expected that Nephi will experience significant growth over the next several decades.
This is predicted by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget as well as population predictions by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah. This will likely be accompanied by additional commercial and industrial growth which will add job opportunities for residents.
“According to the Utah Affordable Housing Forecast Tool provided by the Utah State Division of Housing and Community Development,” said Atkinson, “Nephi will need approximately 800 more affordable housing units by 2030 to accommodate the needs of low income individuals. These units would be necessary if the predictions of population growth occur.”
As a smaller city with limited resources, Nephi government recognizes that the most efficient method for meeting housing demands is the private sector. The role of a local government the size of Nephi would be to facilitate private sector transactions by streamlining government regulatory processes and allow for flexible zoning, he said.
In the plan, the city states that it will use efficient government techniques to continue its General Plan goals of “...maintaining an appropriate range of housing choices” and to “...manage growth occurring within the city and preserve the identity of Nephi as a rural yet welcoming community.”
The Utah Affordable Housing Forecast Tool mainly considers households in the following categories: Low Income (50-80 percent of Area Median Income or AMI); Very Low Income (30-50 percent AMI); and Extremely Low Income (less than 30 percent AMI).
Mark Jones, mayor, is also branch manager of Utah Community Credit Union, and said he had helped buyers with numerous Utah home buyer loan programs.
“There are a lot of counties in our state that are not able to get Utah housing loans,” he said.
This plan looks at the ways that Nephi can assist with providing a reasonable opportunity for a variety of housing to exist to serve populations within these categories.
As of the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 1,850 housing units in Nephi. Of those units, 1,690 (91.4 percent) were occupied and 160 (8.6 percent) were vacant. Owner-occupied units make up the majority (78 percent) of the city’s housing stock, while renter-occupied units account for 22 percent of the city’s housing stock.
Nephi’s housing stock consists of 1,574 (90.4 percent) single-unit detached homes, 0 (0 percent) single-unit attached homes, 75 (4.3 percent) two- to four-unit structures, 30 (1.7 percent) five- to nineteen-unit structures, 12 (0.7 percent) structures with twenty or more units, and 50 (2.9 percent) other structure types, such as RVs and mobile homes.
“In terms of unit size, Nephi’s housing stock consists of 0 units with no bedrooms, 73 units with one bedroom, 850 units with two or three bedrooms, and 818 units with four or more bedrooms,” said Atkinson.
Using data from the Utah Affordable Housing Forecast Tool, the existing supply of moderate income housing can be estimated in the city.
An affordable unit is one in which a household at the defined income threshold can rent without paying more than 30 percent of its gross income on housing and utility costs. A unit is affordable and available only if that unit is both affordable and vacant, or is currently occupied by a household at or below the defined income threshold.
Nephi does have Mountain Shadows Apartments and Andrews Apartments.
“There is a dearth of low income housing in Nephi,” said Donald Ball.
Atkinson displayed a graph that was referred to several times.
As Nephi grows, the graph shows the need for additional housing units that fall into the extremely low income category. In order to meet the need, roughly 70 additional units would be needed to meet the demand.
The land use map displays the most current zoning districts for Nephi.
“Over the last year the city has seen conversions of existing zones to high density residential,” said Atkinson.
Residential-3 (R3), Residential-2-8 (R2-8), Central Commercial (CC), and Combined Use (CU) districts all have the flexibility to allow for some kind of higher density residential use. Higher density use is typically correlated with affordable housing, particularly the categories of low to moderate income housing.
As the city becomes more populated, density in the main core of the city is likely to increase. Zoning in these districts already allows for this outcome.
In a city with limited resources, the best practice for local government would be to assist the private sector in meeting the housing demands for those with low to moderate income. This can best be achieved through reducing regulatory barriers.
“Nephi provides almost all necessary utility infrastructure for development,” Atkinson said. “This means a development submitting an application will receive a quick turnaround and contact with a single entity for necessary utility infrastructure.”
In addition, current city zoning requirements provide flexibility to developers as they seek to meet housing demands.
“Nephi also does not currently charge impact fees making development even less costly than surrounding communities,” said Atkinson.
The September 2017 Utah Association of Realtors produced a report showing that the median home price in Juab County was $40,000 less than neighboring Utah County. This further illustrates the cost of living decrease residents may receive by locating in Nephi versus cities to the north. The data from the Utah Affordable Housing Forecast Tool shows that the Median Household Income for Nephi is $53,102.
Juab County recently completed a cost of living report for Nephi and at the Median Household Income, it shows that there is an overall 19 percent cost reduction from the Provo/Orem metro area. This study took into account prices for groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, health, and other miscellaneous items.
Nephi will soon finish the process for instituting a Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) for economic development purposes. One of the required elements to creating a CRA is using some of the proceeds for affordable housing purposes. As the process moves forward, the council will identify ways to use these proceeds to further the reasonable opportunities for housing, particularly for those of low to moderate income.
Nephi has issued a permit in 2017 for a high density residential unit with 6 units. It also has the potential to be increased to 8 units. This equaled 3.7 percent of the total new residential construction. However, it was 19 percent of the total number of available new residential dwelling units.
“One requirement in the biennial review is to show coordination between neighboring municipalities,” said Atkinson. “It is assumed that this mainly applies to municipalities who share borders, particularly along the Wasatch front.”
The closest neighboring municipality to Nephi is Mona , 7 miles to the north. Nephi provides the natural gas service to Mona and maintains an open communication with city leaders. While no formal coordination between the two entities has taken place, any coordination on moderate income housing plans could occur with ease.
As Nephi continues to grow and eventually witnesses the growth projected for Juab County, efforts will be made to encourage low to moderate income housing. A healthy mixture of housing types will be available for the current and future citizens.