Utah lawmakers note difficulty in addressing housing issue, tout education efforts | News, Sports, Jobs

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Sen. Ann Millner, center, addresses a gathering of the Weber County Republican Women on Monday, April 4, 2022. Also attending were Sen. John Johnson, right, and Rep. Mike Schultz.

Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner

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Rep. Mike Schultz, left, addresses a gathering of the Weber County Republican Women on Monday, April 4, 2022. Also attending, seated, were Sens. Ann Millner, left, and John Johnson.

Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner

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Sen. Ann Millner, left, addresses a gathering of the Weber County Republican Women on Monday, April 4, 2022. Also attending, seated, were Sen. John Johnson, left, and Rep. Mike Schultz.

Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner

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Sen. John Johnson, left, addresses a gathering of the Weber County Republican Women on Monday, April 4, 2022. Also attending, seated, were Sen. Ann Millner, left, and Rep. Mike Schultz.

Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner

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OGDEN — As a big an issue as the shortage of affordable housing is across Utah, state lawmakers are limited in what they can do to tackle the problem, a group of state lawmakers said Monday.

“It truly is a supply and demand issue and that starts with local governments,” Rep. Mike Schultz, a Hooper Republican, said at the monthly gathering of the Weber County Republican Women. That is, pertinent zoning creates the areas where housing can be developed, and that’s a local government function.

What’s more, said Sen. Ann Millner, to an Ogden Republican, the private sector has a big hand in housing development. At any rate, she noted the difficulty some of her grandchildren have had in trying to buy a home, underscoring the ubiquity of the issue.

“They are forced out of that market. We’ve got to find a way to be able to build more affordable housing that will be able to support that,” Millner said. Allowing for dense development on smaller lots can help, she noted, but some in the public don’t favor that.

Still, lawmakers can have a hand in creating a solution.

Schultz noted a measure sponsored by Rep. Steve Waldrip, an Eden Republican, during the legislative session that aims to encourage development of more affordable housing, House Bill 462. It encourages housing development around transit hubs, among other things.

Schultz also noted efforts to pull back government incentives offered to private business, which could curtail non-Utahns from coming here by trimming the number of new companies coming to Utah from outside the state. “Hopefully that slows some of the growth that we’re seeing, people coming into the state,” he said, simultaneously freeing housing opportunities for younger Utahns.

Sen. John Johnson, a North Ogden Republican, noted with chagrin that his son was to move into a basement apartment at a Pleasant View house until the homeowners learned that city code didn’t allow for it. “I think we need to get people involved and go to the city council meetings,” he said.

He also noted the simultaneous, seemingly clashing complaints from the public about a lack of housing and opposition to high-density housing. “You can’t do that and then also say why don’t we have enough housing for young people going into it,” he said.

The lawmakers also touched on education, with Schultz noting that lawmakers approved a 9% increase in funding to the sector. “This was a big year for education,” he said.

Johnson alluded to a seeming increase in concerns he’s been hearing from parents about the education system. “This was also year where we had a large number of parents concerned about things that were happening in the classroom,” he said.

He had proposed a pair of education measures, one prohibiting teaching of “divisive concepts” in public schools, another to give parents more leeway to prevent instruction of “objectionable” material to their kids. While both ultimately fizzled, he said he hasn’t given up.

“I hope to address those in the future,” he said. Johnson also reiterated his assertion that critical race theory is making headway in Utah classrooms. He helped fund a film released earlier this year looking into the issue.

Millner noted legislation she sponsored meant to bolster literacy among kids in kindergarten through third grade.

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