Earn $4,940 more per month to own a home

In 2019, the typical household wage in Moab was $4,940 less than it needed to be for the household to afford to own the typical Moab home. That is up over $1,000 in the last 10 years; in 2009, the gap was $3,100, according to data from the Moab Area Housing Task Force.

Rent costs are also high in Moab. According to a 2018 report from the Utah Department of Work Services, Grand County had the largest gap of any county between the cost of renting a typical apartment and the typical local wage.

A 2019 update from the Moab Area Housing Task Force showed that the typical Moabite would need to make $1,294 more each month to afford the area’s typical rent, utilities, and renter’s insurance.

High-density housing prioritized on 6.5% of the land

In the City of Moab, the objective of the R-3 zone, named the Multi-Household Residential Zone, is “to provide appropriate locations within the city for high-density, residential development.” The zone accounts for 6.5% of the land within city limits.

High-density, residential developments are allowed in other parts of the city, as well, including commercial zones. However, developers do not tend to build housing in commercial zones. This is because business construction tends to be more profitable per square foot, so it outcompetes housing in those areas.

The zones within city limits where housing is prioritized are R-1, R-2, R-3, R-4, MH/RV-1, and RA-1. Each of the zones prioritizes different kinds of housing.

The largest of these zones by area is R-2, which prioritizes single- and two-household structures, including duplexes. R-2 comprises 37% of the total residential zoning in Moab. R-3 comprises 11% of the residential zoning.

Higher-density housing is also allowed in the R-4 zone, though manufactured houses (like those in Grand Oasis) are prioritized. R-4 comprises 20% of the total residential zoning in Moab.

The remaining three zones support only single-family, detached housing in various forms. They take up the remaining 32% of the city’s residential zoning.

20 homes per acre

Unless granted special permission by the community at large, homebuilders in Moab cannot build more than one housing unit per 1,800 square feet. However, a list of other building standards imposed by the city diminishes the real density allowed to about 20 units per acre, at max.

In practice, the city’s R-3 zone supports 11 dwelling units per acre while the R-4 zone can support roughly 20 dwelling units per acre. That’s based on the combined density of three apartment complexes along Kane Creek Boulevard and the density of the MAPS Senior Housing project, respectively.

By comparison, apartments in Salt Lake City can reach housing densities of 130 dwelling units per acre, primarily by building taller apartments.

Apartments in Moab must have a certain amount of space designated as a recreation area; all housing units must come with at least one and a half parking spaces; and fences in residential zones cannot be taller than four feet.

The city also imposes on homebuilders requirements related to parking lot layout, landscaping, outdoor lighting, large vehicle storage, setbacks, and more.

A 5-point decrease in multifamily unit approvals

In Utah, 27% of housing units permitted for construction between 2000 and 2009 were in multi-family developments. Between 2010 and 2019, that figure increased to 44%.

In Moab, the opposite trend took hold. From 2000 to 2009, 33% of residential units approved for consruction in Grand County were multifamily units. From 2010 to 2017 (data is missing from 2018 and parts of 2019), the figure was 28% — a decrease of five percentage points.