2023 Legislative Session comes to an endMar 06, 2023 10:01AM ● By Becky Ginos
Visitors to the Capitol try to identify its iconic features. The Capitol has been bustling with activity over the last 45 days of the Legislative Session. It all ends tonight at midnight. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle
CAPITOL HILL—After a busy 45 days the 2023 Legislative Session is coming to an end by midnight tonight. A record number of bills – more than 900 – have been considered by lawmakers during the session. Many passed early on while others died a quiet death. Along with tax cuts and education funding, legislators have also looked at ways to provide affordable housing.
SB240, sponsored by Senate President Stuart Adams is intended to help first-time home buyers realize their dream of homeownership.
“Affordable housing has been a problem,” said Adams. “Utah has the best economy in the nation. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates and we’re the fastest growing state. Because we’re growing so fast, housing has become unaffordable.”
The discussion has mostly been about high density or multi-family housing, he said. “We need to change the narrative of homeownership. America believes in homeownership, Utah believes in homeownership.”
There is pride in owning something, Adams said. “As you get older it also adds to your net worth and equity provides a nest egg for people to sustain themselves. I’m concerned if we don’t focus on home ownership and just renters, the middle class will disappear.”
Back in the 1980s there was a program the government was working on for first-time homeowners, he said. “We need to pivot and focus on homeownership again.”
Adam’s bill would give qualified applicants $20,000 to use for a down payment or to buy down the interest rate. “It’s a loan not a gift,” he said. “It’s capped at a $450,000 home. If they refinance or sell they have to pay it back. We hope to help at least 2,500 families to feel the pride and get the benefit of homeownership.”
It is only for new construction, said Adams. “We don’t want to take away from existing homes that we already don’t have enough of and this creates new homes.”
SB240 sets aside $50 million for the program, he said. “If you divide it by $20,000 it comes up to 2,500. That's where we got the number. We might be able to help 3,000 families. If each family has two or three children we could get close to 10,000 Utahns into a home.”
The Utah Housing Corporation will administer the program, said Adams. “They’ll work with local banks and credit unions to facilitate it.”
As of press time, the bill was ready to be introduced on the House floor mid-week. “I’ve had a favorable response,” said Adams. “Maybe only one vote against.”
Adams has said from the beginning that this would be the session of the tax cut. “It’s amazing that Utah has been able to do it again and again. We’ve had a tax cut for the last three years. In addition to cutting taxes we’ve had record funding for education which includes teacher salaries.”
The legislature has also had record spending on infrastructure, he said. “We’ve put over a billion and a half on roads and transit and half a billion on water.”
It’s been an impressive legislative session, said Adams. “There’s been a lot of work to do and not all bills will pass. It’s an honor to serve. We’re fortunate to live in Utah with such a strong economy. Utah lives within its means and has a great financial capacity.”