Sanpete sees large
increase in home starts
By James Tilson
Nov. 9, 2017
MANTI—Sanpete County is on track to have a record year for new home start-up construction.
Permits issued for single family dwellings are set to increase by 20 percent in 2017 above the number in 2016, according to statistics kept by the Sanpete County Building Department.
Scott Olson, Sanpete County Zoning Administrator, says he can see the increase in the number of zoning applications, permits and plans he reviews as part of his job. A lot of those applications are from the north end of the county.
“Milburn is a hot spot this year,” Olsen said.
Tracy Christensen, an official with the county’s Building Deptartment, says the number of permit applications is nearly overwhelming. “The numbers of phone calls are horrendous, it never stops,” Christensen said.
As Olson said, most of the new construction is occurring in the north end of the county. Like Olson, Christensen says that the majority of new construction is from Mt Pleasant north: Fountain Green, Moroni, Fairview and Milburn. And most of the new permits are for single family residences.
Mayor Ron Ivory of Fountain Green has noticed the housing spurt as well. He says that most of the houses he has seen in Fountain Green are “real nice homes” for a single family.
Claudia Jarrett, chair of the Sanpete County Commission, says that most of the new construction is taking place in the cities, not out in the county. “The mayors are experiencing it the most in Sanpete County.”
But although home construction is spiking, there does not seem to be much of an increase in new business construction. Without such growth in the business sector, what’s driving the county’s new-home expansion?
Jarrett says she isn’t sure, but she thinks it’s “a combination of things” from retirees, people from California, commuters to the Wasatch Front, and possibly even low interests rates.
“There are not a lot of houses for sale, which may also be driving the market.”
Kenneth Bench, Sanpete County Assessor, points to the recent spike in job development in Salt Lake and Utah Counties. According to Bench, Salt Lake County probably has the first or second hottest job market in the U.S. right now.
“This is probably the hottest market in 10 years.” The new homes may by being built by people who commute from Sanpete to Utah and Salt Lake Counties for their jobs. More evidence of that, he says, is the traffic leaving and coming back to northern Sanpete County during weekday morning and evening hours.
In any case, the housing spurt represents economic growth for Sanpete County. “True growth is how many people are building new homes,” Bench says.
Fountain Green’s Ivory confirms that the new houses he has seen have been with people moving from Utah County. He relates that a new neighbor told him he had moved his whole family from Spanish Fork because they “love the country lifestyle.” Ivory noted that Spanish Fork is getting so big now that it’s not a small town anymore, and people miss the small town feeling.
Meanwhile, Christensen from the Sanpete County Building Department pointed to the lower cost of property in Sanpete County as a reason for new housing starts. While construction costs may be about the same, or maybe even a little more due to lack of competition, the cost of property is much less.
Olson concurs. He remembers talking to a building inspector from Springville a little over a year ago, and how the inspector told him that quarter-acre lots in Springville were going for $100,000 “for the worst, most unbuildable lots.”
Olson says he also see a lot of flood plain development in Salt Lake and Utah Counties. He says that’s what happens when there is nothing else available.
He related how his daughter was recently shopping for a home in Salt Lake, and told him that she was seeing lots as small as .05 of an acre—literally, “a house and a parking spot.”
In Sanpete County, on the other hand, someone can get five acres for less than $100,000.
And that highlights a point that Christensen made about a negative side-effect of low property prices for developers who speculated they’d be able to fill subdivisions as growth happened. Most of the permits issued of late for single family homes are not in those subdivisions; the property is cheap enough for people to purchase land and house together. That means developers aren’t selling subdivision lots, which means neither do they have the money to complete the subdivision infrastructure like roads and utilities.
Both Olson and Christensen agree that growth is not going away, and will likely only continue.
Christensen says, “I just think we’re going to get busier. With the Wasatch Front expansion, and especially in Spanish Fork, Sanpete is just next in line.”