Experts say rental boom in Salt Lake City a boon to local economy

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A recent study indicates there’s been a significant rental boom in Salt Lake City, specifically with apartments, and, according to the Utah Apartment Association, contractors can’t build fast enough to meet the new demand.

The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and the National Apartment Association did the research and found some interesting numbers. They found that more and more Utahns are starting to find renting more attractive than buying, and, as the population continues to increase with people moving here because of the job growth, more properties to house them will need to be built.

"Over the last 10 years we've averaged about 1,300 to 1,400 units a year; we're on pace to triple or quadruple that this year and in the next few years,” said L. Paul Smith, who is the executive director of the Utah Apartment Association.

Smith said about a third of Utah’s population rents rather than owns a home, and according to a recent study more and more are finding renting an apartment to be more attractive.

“People want the flexibility that renting gives them,” Smith said. “People don't want to have to worry about being upside down or unable to move because the economy turns sour.”

So the construction of these dwellings is on the rise, which is good news considering Smith said local apartment construction contributed almost $347 million to the state economy.

"The economic impact of apartments in Utah is just fast money,” Smith said. “The money that building puts into our economy, the money that operating those properties--the property management system--puts into our economy, and the number that renters spend in local municipalities near where apartments are is just staggering.”

About 70 percent of Utahns are homeowners, and Smith anticipates that number will decrease over the next few years--but not everyone is keen on renting apartments. Salt Lake City renter Crystal Sacco has experienced increases in her rental rates to the point where she’s moving out of her Avenues apartment to rent a home for around the same price.

“My rent is like $730, so they said if I go month-to-month and I don't sign the lease then it's going to go up to $1,100,” she said. “I'd rather rent a house at this point and pay that amount.”

Even with cost of living on the rise, Utah is better off than most. CNN published a recent article looking at rising rent in 70 metro areas across the country. Salt Lake City was one of only four cities with income growing faster than rent.

“We're definitely not San Francisco or New York City; we still are relatively affordable compared to most of the country,” Smith said.

In 2013, the apartment industry--in terms of construction, management and operation--supported more than 46,000 Utah jobs. That is another number researchers anticipate increases in.