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June 18, 2021

Bill would make it easier to renovate, rent out rooms in Utah homes

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah State Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, has heard from many people who want to convert the attic or basement in their homes to an affordable apartment for others to rent.

But when they go to city planners, there are so many rules and regulations to follow it makes the project almost impossible and much too expensive.

That’s why Ward has introduced a bill that would streamline the process by making those renovations permitted as long as basic safety measures are met and the homeowner also lives on the property. It would also incentivize lenders to give low-interest loans to homeowners for those projects.

“When the homeowner is just rearranging the inside of their home to choose who lives with them, and then they wish to contract with them to help pay the rent when they’re in there, once all the safety (regulations) have been met, then we shouldn’t be putting other restrictions on,” Ward said during a hearing at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, who has built several homes, feels many of the regulations pump up city budgets but don’t help homeowners who have the space.

“There’s over 60% of Sandy where the occupancy is two-and-a-half people per acre, and they’re usually older couples … and they have really empty basements,” Anderegg said. “So, the argument that cities need to charge more impact fees for permitting and all this other stuff is baloney.”

However, some people during the hearing questioned whether any city’s services could handle extra people in a home. There were also concerns about parking availability in some neighborhoods.

Anderegg countered that builders already plan for that.

“The sewer lines, the gas lines, the electrical ability. All of that is factored in so that the maximum bandwidth, if you will, for those services are included in a home,” Anderegg said.

Ward also thinks making it easier to renovate those rooms will go a long way toward solving the affordable housing problem in Utah while keeping neighborhoods nice.

“As the housing affordability crisis gets worse and worse and worse, people will — never mind the rules we make — be willing to do all kinds of things (including putting 12 in a home) because they’re just trying to find a place to live,” Ward said. “To me, this setting where the owner is still there and renting to another family is one way I think that keeps the value in the neighborhoods good.”

Kelli Pierce

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