Old homes now businesses

This used car lot near 5th Street and Washington Boulevard is an example of a former single-family home being converted into a business. Current Ogden City code doesn't allow such structures to be used again as homes, but a pending proposal could change that. May 3, 2021.

OGDEN — With home prices in Utah reaching historic highs and demand outpacing supply, the Ogden administration is looking to soften its rules governing housing in nonresidential areas of the city.

The Ogden City Planning Division is working on a proposal that would amend the city’s zoning ordinance to allow buildings in nonresidential zones that were originally built as single-family dwellings, but have since been converted to other uses, to once again be used as single-family dwellings. At several spots in Ogden, buildings that were once homes have been converted into businesses. There are used car lots, insurance agencies, attorneys and dentist offices, and more. Currently, if that conversion happened in a nonresidential area, the city prohibits the structure from ever being used as a home again.

During a recently Ogden Planning Commission discussion on the proposal, Planning Manager Greg Montgomery said that up until 1972, single-family homes were permitted in all areas of the city, regardless of whether the area was zoned for residential, commercial or industrial uses. But eventually zoning philosophies changed, Montgomery said, and it was decided there should be a separation because a hodgepodge of land uses could create negative impacts. So other than those that have been grandfathered in, single-family homes have not been allowed in Ogden commercial and industrial zones since the 1970s.

But that could change soon.

The Planning Division’s proposal would allow the converted buildings that were once homes to revert back to their original, residential use, regardless of what zone they are in, so long as certain conditions to restore the residential character of the building are met, like removing commercial signs and landscaping at least 50% of the front yard.

The potential change is being driven by local housing demands and the fact that some of the properties in question are now being marketed as residential buys, even though according to current city code, that would be an illegal use. Prices and demand on homes all across Utah are seeing a significant trend upward.

According to assessed valuations for 2020 Weber County properties, median home values increased 11% last year compared to 2019. The median value is the midpoint for Weber County home values, with half worth more than that and half worth less. And according to the Utah Association of Realtors, the average price of a sold home in Weber County increased a staggering 28% from January 2020 to January 2021, jumping from about $281,000 last year to $358,000 this year.

The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, in partnership with the Ivory-Boyer Real Estate Center, tracks building permit activity across the state and publishes a quarterly report on the findings.

According to the group’s final quarter report of 2020, last year was record-breaking for construction in Utah. Total permitted construction value reached $11 billion for the year, which was led by a surge in residential construction. The report says residential construction value reached $6.7 billion in 2020, surpassing the previous record that was set in 2006. A residential permits record that had stood since 2005 was also broken in 2020. Permitted residential units reached 31,744, last year, a 15% increase from 2019. Single-family permitted units increased 29% from 2019, reaching 15,318 units in 2020.

Planning Commissioner Rick Southwick said with so little housing available in Ogden, and with what is available selling quickly and at increasingly rising prices, the change would be a good idea. During the commission meeting, a consensus emerged that the measure would be a small step to improve Ogden’s housing situation.

The decision on the proposal will ultimately come from the Ogden City Council. Housing, and specifically affordability, has been an important issue for several members of the council, most notably Luis Lopez.

“I would love my kids to find a place to live in Ogden,” Lopez said during a recent council work session. “And the way housing is right now, they probably won’t be able to do that.”

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