Selfishness and unintended consequences

The 5 Whys is a simple technique for looking at problems—if you participate in community discussion groups, the issue of property taxes will undoubtedly come up. Here is my take on the problem applying a 5 Whys analysis:

Why are property taxes increasing?
Because home values are going up.

Why are home values going up?
Because more people are willing to pay more money to buy a home in our community.

Why are people willing to pay more money to by a home in our community?
Because the demand for homes in our community exceeds the supply.

Why is the demand for homes exceeding the supply?
Because we won’t allow new homes to be built.

Why won’t we allow new homes to be built?
Because people won’t support policies that allow for new development.

I’ve seen this play out in California, and the unintended consequences for the community will be devastating. Maybe not next week or next year, but eventually, the market price will force people rooted to the community out, and it’s not the “transplant” from the Bay Area or Los Angeles or Portland or Seattle or “name a major metropolitan area here” who will be at fault, it will be us. Our children will pay the price.

One of the main reasons I returned to Utah was simple economics. From a family point-of-view, I could not see my children being able to enjoy the same, high quality of life I had experienced if they chose to stay in California. The cost of living was too high, and this was driven primarily by the cost of housing. Why were housing prices so high? (See above)

The residents of Holliday, Utah unanimously rejected a new development on a vacant mall site that would have added a 775-unit high rise apartment tower and 210 single-family homes which would have included higher density townhomes. These would have been new places to live for young families and first homes for others. The development would have added office space for businesses as well as dining and entertainment options for the local community. But the residents didn’t want to change; they didn’t want something different in their city; they didn’t want to open up their community to others who can’t afford a $700,000 home.

I only hope that my city of Millcreek is less selfish and works to find solutions that allow our children (and newcomers) to live next to us along the Wasatch front.

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