Population and household formation are arguably the most important indicators of housing demand over time. In Grand County, however, full-time population may provide misleading information about housing demand. Seasonal employment, transient residents, undocumented workers, small sample sizes for intercensal counts, and enormous spikes in temporary populations from tourism lead to underestimates of housing demand in the Moab Area. It is difficult to estimate the effects of such demand, so only full-time population and household counts are reported below.
Like many rural gateway communities in the American West, Grand County’s employment profile leans heavily on service-industry jobs. Tourism related employment accounts for more than 55 percent (55%) of all jobs and remains the primary economic driver in Grand County. Because tourism related employment is more likely than other employment to be part-time, seasonal, low-paying, and without benefits, Grand County may benefit from economic diversification that leads to more varied employment opportunities and higher wages. However, economic diversification and higher wages alone will not suffice. The housing market needs a stable balance of year-round demand and supply that accounts for long-term occupancy and short-term occupancy. Higher wages will enable local workers to compete for market rate housing, but supply across all price levels is relatively constrained.
Housing affordability, at its root, is a function of supply and demand. Housing construction is the primary indicator of changes in supply. Since 2000, roughly 1100 new residential housing units have been constructed in Grand County, which includes the unincorporated County, City of Moab, and Town of Castle Valley. The majority of residential construction continues to take place in the unincorporated area of Grand County. Construction rates have increased slightly in recent years as the nationwide real estate market continues to rebound from the 2007-’08 recession. Increased construction activity has also benefited from historically low interest rates, an expanding local economy, and increasing demand for new housing from residents and investors.
Tracking land and housing prices is central to understanding local housing markets. As prices change, opportunities and constraints also change. The prices for developable land and finished construction have increased steadily since 2000, with some variability year-to-year. In a growing economy and upward housing market, affordable housing becomes increasingly difficult to finance, construct, and preserve. Key statistics provided below indicate the upward trend of Moab’s housing market, which makes housing less and less affordable to lower income households. The market for raw land has also increased markedly, which makes development more expensive and, as a result, sales and rental prices increase as developers pass the costs onto end users.
In May 2015,
Utilizing an unconventional loan, a family of four earning the 2015 HUD area median income ($55,300 per year) could afford to purchase a home that cost $193,258. That represents an affordability gap of almost $100,000.
In 2016, the average assessed value of all homes within Grand County was $296,000.
While a standardized evaluation of existing housing units could not be completed prior to the writing of this plan, the US Census Bureau and local research efforts provide a cursory understanding of the quality of Grand County’s housing inventory. The condition of existing housing units contributes to overall housing costs, neighborhood attachment, and public health. As housing conditions decrease over time, maintenance costs increase. Owners must choose to expend additional money or defer maintenance, which tends to increase costs in later years. Renters tend to experience increased rents over time as property owners account for maintenance costs by passing them onto renters. At the extreme, very old units, perhaps some built to substandard qualities, may result in condemnation and demolition, which decreases the supply of housing. Alternatively, residents may occupy otherwise uninhabitable housing units that lead to mental and physical health issues. A healthy housing market depends on a balance of renovating older homes, rebuilding dilapidated structures, and new construction.
population & Households
land & Housing prices
housing inventory condition