BUSINESS + ECONOMY

New study says Utah is the most affordable state — and why that’s not necessarily true

Mar 27, 2024, 1:00 PM

the aster building in utah, affordable housing apartment...

The Aster, a three-building development that includes low-income housing, commercial and public spaces, is pictured in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new report from USA TODAY says Utah is the most affordable state in the nation. This comes just days after another report ranked Utah among some of the least affordable places to live.

One financial expert said it’s because the study is looking at the median income of people in our state, instead of the average. 

“That shows that we have a pretty large group of people that need better employment,” said Shane Stewart, a certified financial planner with Deseret Mutual Benefit Association. “And it also could show we’ve got some people on the high end that are really high.”

Stewart said the way USA TODAY did this study is much like a teacher grading on a bell curve — where extreme highs and extreme lows can skew the results.

“Them using median tells me they’re trying to paint a more rosy picture than it actually is,” said Stewart. “Most people in the real world will think, ‘Whoa, whoa. Am I even in the hunt here?’ Whereas if you use the average salary of about close to $50,000 here in Utah, you get a little better perspective on what that looks like and probably a more fair number to use.”

Where Utahns are spending… or not

According to the report, Utahns spend the lowest percentage of their income on healthcare costs. It also says Utah has the fourth lowest percentage of income being spent on housing.

The homeowner information is from 2022 and may have been taken before mortgage rates jumped. Those numbers are also based on folks already in their homes — and not people trying to buy homes. 

Many homeowners probably have lower mortgage rates and payments than those trying to buy their homes now.

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New study says Utah is the most affordable state — and why that’s not necessarily true