2019 is behind us, and it was a doozy of goods and bads for the world. There was the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, bombings in virtually every country and mass shootings seemingly every day in the United States. Mosques, synagogues and schools weren't safe from violence with many receiving horrible threats, causing these communities to hire regular police protection and rethink how people enter school buildings. On the good side, SpongeBob turned 20, more people voted in national elections than ever before and 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg woke boomers and millennials alike about our world ending.
Locally, Utah continues to rank at the bottom of the gender pay gap and the highest for rates of melanoma, prescription drug abuse and mental health issues in the nation. We've also continued to be known for our bad air inversions, which in my world, has caused people to sell their homes and move above or out of the smog. Given that Thunberg believes our air is becoming toxic and unbreathable, there might not be any place to flee in a decade or two.
2020, though, is going to be a good year for real estate. The chief economist of the National Association of Realtors forecasts that home sales will increase and prices will keep going up. This is logical because millennials are starting to get into the home-buying game now that interest rates are low and predicted to stay low this next year. We have extremely low unemployment and a great U.S. economy, which isn't expected to change.
Despite the desperate need for low income and affordable housing in our state, we won't see much inventory being built. Why would a developer of apartments build 100 units that rent for $800 when they can build the exact same units and rent them for $1,600? Do we cure this problem by having cities, the state and the feds give our tax money in grants to builders as an incentive? I'm only in favor of that plan if the builder is not allowed to flip the property for a profit as soon as it's complete. There's no requirement that the chain of owners down the road would be required to rent to low-income tenants. There are plenty of ideas out there to fix our affordable housing problems with housing trust funds, municipal bond sales, tax breaks and loosened zoning rules. It's up to politicians to grab this issue by the proverbial balls in 2020. In Salt Lake, we'll be watching newly elected Mayor Erin Mendenhall's promise to either make an impact or vanish into the pollution layer of political rhetoric. Happy New Year to all!