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Mountain West Leads The Nation In Home Construction, But Can't Keep Up With Population Boom

Photo of utah housing. / Jason Finn
The Mountain West region is experiencing a population boom, outpacing housing construction. Utah ranked first in the U.S. in overall growth in housing units from 2017-2018.

Developers are struggling to build enough houses and apartments to keep up with the population boom in the Mountain West, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data released last week.

Home construction rates are growing rapidly in the region as Americans flock to live in cities like Boise, Spokane, and Reno — some of the fastest growing urban areas in the U.S. last year. Utah ranked first in overall growth in housing units from 2017-2018.

But construction is still outpaced by the number of people moving to the region, spurring high home prices as salaries and wages have not increased proportionally.

“They aren’t able to build enough to keep up with the massive increase in demand they are facing,” said Bryce Ward, economist at the University of Montana. “When you become less affordable, you’re essentially tapping the breaks of your economy.”

This could lead to a slowdown in growth, in part because companies that are attracted to the Mountain West may shy away due to high home prices for their workers.

“It doesn’t mean it will turn [the economy] negative,” Ward said. “But it means that you won’t see the same kind of explosive growth that you’ve seen in some of these communities, which some people might be okay with.”

This, in turn, could ease demand and make houses and rent more affordable for people currently living in the region.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Nate Hegyi is the Utah reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, based at KUER. He covers federal land management agencies, indigenous issues, and the environment. Before arriving in Salt Lake City, Nate worked at Yellowstone Public Radio, Montana Public Radio, and was an intern with NPR's Morning Edition. He received a master's in journalism from the University of Montana.
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