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SALT LAKE CITY — It’s the flipside to Utah’s thriving economy and growing population: sharp increases in housing prices and the worry that living in the Beehive State is becoming unaffordable.
“The house prices are skyrocketing,” said Sandy resident Allison Froelich. “I’ve noticed that my overall monthly bills just keep going up.”
Froelich said the rising cost of living has become a daily topic of conversation at her house.
“My kids are already talking about moving to Texas,” she said, “because it’s cheaper to live there and they can make the same amount of money.”
Others echo her concern and the desire to move to other states where their paychecks will stretch further.
“It’s gotten out of control,” said Jordan Walker from Millcreek. “It’s just not affordable for us even with me graduating with a bachelor’s degree.”
“Property values are the main issue,” said Holladay resident Dennis Hummel. “I’m from back East and I’m cashing out and moving back there.”
Quality of life
They’re not the only ones feeling this way. In 2018, the Utah Foundation’s Community Quality of Life Index fell—for the first time—below its starting point from when the survey started in 2011.
Based off of Utahns’ perceptions of their communities, the quality of life index dropped to 70 out of 100 points last year. That’s a “significant” decline of three points since 2013, according to the report’s authors.
“Utah’s rapidly rising housing costs have made many Utahns feel like rents and ownership are no longer affordable,” the report said.
“The perception of that housing affordability has drawn this index down,” said Utah Foundation’s research director Shawn Teigen. “So we’ve lowered our quality of life over time even with an improving economy.”
When asked about their personal quality of life, Utahns responded with a similar anxiety.
“Being ‘secure financially’ is far and away the poorest performing measure among the personal quality of life questions,” the report said.
Cost of living
Carrie Mayne, the chief economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said Utah residents are right to be concerned about housing affordability.
“What we’re hearing a lot about is people seeing their paychecks rise, but not to the degree that they can go and purchase a home,” she said, “and that’s discouraging for those job seekers and it could dampen our economy in the long run.”
But there is good news when it comes to paychecks, Utah saw the largest increase in real personal income in the nation in 2016, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Utah’s real personal income grew by 3.3 percent, compared to the national average of 1.1 percent.
While housing is an area of concern, Mayne points out that Utah’s economy continues to see sustainable growth with low unemployment, healthy job growth, and a lower-than-average cost of living.
“We’re actually a pretty low cost-of-living state,” she said. “We’re definitely below the average.”
For a reality check, she points to a regional price parity index that allows economists to compare the cost of living and the differences in prices from state to state. The Bureau of Economic Analysis puts the national average at 100 for the cost of a collection of goods, services and rent.
In the most recent index from 2016, Utah was below the national average with a regional price parity of 97. That means your dollar buys you more in Utah when compared to high cost-of-living areas like California (114), New York (116), and Hawaii (118).
It should be noted that Utah is also considered a low-wage state, Mayne said. One of the main reasons for the lower wages is Utah’s young population.
“When you have larger portion of your total workforce more in their entry level wages, then, of course, that average is going to be pulled down,” she said.
How you feel about Utah’s cost of living could depend on how long you’ve lived in the state and if you moved here from a more expensive area.
“You see someone who’s sold their home in California and comes and pays cash for their house here in Utah,” Mayne said. “So it is attractive in that sense.”
“Compared to Denver we’re actually sitting in a pretty good place,” Teigen said.
After nearly 12,500 apartments were built in the past four years, there are now 6,650 units under construction in Utah’s most populous county, with more than half of those in Salt Lake City. Another 66 projects are proposed countywide that, if approved, would involve another 9,700 dwellings.
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Even for the NBA, the churning of the league’s superstars has been dizzying the past two offseasons. From Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving and Paul George last year to LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins and Kawhi Leonard this summer, big trades and free agency moves have animated some of the league’s biggest contenders.
But when it comes to overhaul, the Utah Jazz made a conscious decision to sit this one out. That strategy, while conservative in nature, is bold in how it cuts against the grain. And the Jazz are as interested as anyone to find out if standing pat and developing from within is enough to compete with the NBA’s best.
“I get it: It’s not probably the greatest or most sexy PR thing to come back with the same group, especially when we had some flexibility,” general manager Dennis Lindsey said earlier this month, when the Jazz re-signed Derrick Favors, Dante Exum and Raul Neto. “But we had to understand the associated upside with the continuity.”
While the Jazz have stressed their commitment to keeping the roster together — returning players account for 88 percent of last year’s minutes — Utah’s flexibility for the future remains intact. A number of contracts, including Ricky Rubio, come off the books next summer, and Favors’ second year is not guaranteed, potentially freeing up millions in 2019 to chase a stacked class of free agents.
The 2018-19 season can be better understood as an low-risk experiment: Was the 29-6 finish to last season an accurate reflection of what the current roster can sustain? Could this group develop enough to become a championship contender in an era overshadowed by the dominant Warriors?
“I think the Jazz played a pretty smart middle ground,” said Tim Bontemps, a national NBA writer for The Washington Post. “They kept this group together and kept their flexibility for the future if it doesn’t work out.”
Utah’s 2018 offseason blares continuity: The only rotation player they allowed to walk is Jonas Jerebko. Favors, Exum and Neto were all brought back in free agency, and Georges Niang, who got a multi-year deal, was a two-way Jazz player last season.
In that light, Utah has bought into the idea that locker room chemistry and continuity within Quin Snyder’s system are important and not worth tampering with. There’s hope within the organization that the same core group will be up to speed sooner than mixing in a lot of new players.
“We don’t want to be teaching guys to catch up with our system,” Exum said. “We had a lot of ups and downs. Hopefully we can continue from there.”
It’s certainly true that the winningest organizations value continuity. The Warriors, beyond their biggest stars, have kept role players such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston through their run of three titles. The San Antonio Spurs, arguably the franchise the Jazz most closely try to emulate, have returned players who account for at least 75 percent of total minutes for 14 of the past 20 seasons. By contrast, teams that struggle — examples in recent years include the Nets, the Knicks and Lakers — are fraught with constant roster turnover.
But committing to a group after a hot streak carries a risk: After the Miami Heat went 30-11 to close the 2016-17 season, barely missing the playoffs, the franchise doled out four-year contracts to James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk. This season, Miami was a middling 44-38 team that was washed out in the first round — and now the Heat lack sufficient financial flexibility to do much about it.
HOUSTON — With less than a minute left in regulation Wednesday night, Dante Exum delivered a driving dunk to give the Utah Jazz a nine-point edge.
Sensing the team was in control, injured veteran Thabo Sefolosha enjoyed a friendly exchange with a fan sitting courtside.
Even after blowing a 19-point lead, the Jazz would go on to steal Game 2 at the Toyota Center, 116-108, on Sefolosha’s 34th birthday to even the Western Conference semifinals 1-1.
Joe Ingles was hot from the start, logging a new career-high 27 points including seven 3-pointers. Ingles went 10 for 13 from the field as the Jazz outscored the Rockets 30-23 in the fourth.
“Obviously we wanted to be aggressive but like I said a million times within the flow of our offense and our team,” Ingles said. “Lucky enough to get a couple to fall early.”
Ingles is averaging 15.9 points while shooting 50.9 percent from 3-land in this year’s postseason. Utah’s 15 3-pointers also set a franchise playoff high as the team logged its highest point total of the playoffs.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said Ingles was prepared to step up from the opening tip as the team needed a big game from him.
“I was giving Joe a hard time,” Snyder said. “He started last year as probably our fifth wing and he wasn’t that for long, but I mentioned it before but every time Joe is needed to step up his game, he’s been able to do that or a least he’s committed to that and I think over time he’s improved.“
Utah’s bench also flourished, especially at the start of the second quarter, with Jae Crowder, Alec Burks and Exum logging solid minutes. The Jazz bench outscored the Rockets bench 41-22.