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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Residents respond to survey on city growth, future development

May 05, 2023 12:36PM ● By Cassie Goff


even hundred and eighty-two Cottonwood Heights residents were surveyed about their preferences, expectations and perceptions regarding housing affordability, availability and development within the city. Y2 Analytics Partner and Vice President of Research Kyrene Gibb presented the results of the 2023 Housing Priorities Survey to the Cottonwood Heights City Council on April 4. 

Overall, one in three residents reported walkability (35%), public transit (32%) and affordable housing options (40%) are in need of improvement within the city. Seventy-three percent of surveyed residents reported providing affordable housing as an important priority for planning for the future of Cottonwood Heights. 

“Walkability being a high priority is a consistent theme we see throughout the survey,” Gibb said. 

Homeowners were less likely than renters to give above-average ratings to trails and open spaces. Renters, however, were most likely to report that affordable housing needs improvement. 

Within the city, 32% of renters report paying between $1,500 and $1,999 per month, while those paying off mortgages pay between $1,500 and $2,499 per month.

Surprisingly, to both the researchers and city council, 31% of homeowners reported their mortgage already being paid off, while 24% of non-owners aren’t paying for housing costs monthly (one in four non-owners are rent free).  

“About one-third of our residents are not paying for rent or for a mortgage anymore,” Gibb said.

Thinking about new growth and development for housing within the city, residents reported preference for traditional single-family housing on their own lots; followed closely by condensed lot single-family housing and townhomes. The least appealing options for residents are condominiums and apartment buildings. Overall, residents are not enthusiastic about higher-density options.  

“Townhomes and luxury apartments were the relatively more dense options that residents gravitated towards,” Gibb said. “…options that immediately evoke higher density or taller buildings get initial pushback from residents.” 

Residents believe the missing middle-style housing (townhomes with individual yards or detached single-family homes that share lots with open space) are not available within the city, while between 70% and 83% of residents believe apartments are the most available housing type within the city. 

“Apartments topping the list was fascinating to me,” Gibb said. “There is an overwhelming perception that all of the development and growth is high-density. We are putting apartments everywhere and it’s changing our quality of life. I think that perception is driving a lot of the concerns even if that’s far from accurate.” 

Concern echoed throughout the survey at various points reflected impacts to residents’ property values. 

Residents were asked whether they would prefer to see more high-density housing developments with more opportunities for future generations of Cottonwood Heights residents or if they would prefer to maintain the current housing stock in the city with fewer opportunities for younger residents. The results were close to evenly split with 55% of residents preferring to maintain the current housing stock. 

Preserving the feel of single-family housing neighborhoods throughout the city was reported as an important priority for residents. For them, that meant keeping housing away from the canyons, preserving the mountain viewshed throughout the community and limited congestion and traffic throughout those neighborhoods. 

When asked for their preference between allowing for a broader mix of housing types with more opportunities for residents of different socioeconomic backgrounds and maintaining the current housing stock with fewer opportunities for residents of different socioeconomic backgrounds, residents were almost evenly split. 

“We see a close coin toss with a slight leaning (48% to 52%) towards maintaining the current housing stock with fewer opportunities for those of different socioeconomic backgrounds,” Gibb said. 

Disbursement of that new development spreading throughout the city in existing low-density neighborhoods was reported as an important priority. Residents do not want new housing developments concentrating in high traffic, commercial or undeveloped areas of the city. 

“More of what we already have in Cottonwood Heights is the most appealing thing to residents,” Gibb said.

At a rate of three to one, residents would rather see housing developments being built horizontally than building vertically. 

“This can help us with our general plan process as well,” said City Manager Tim Tingey.

Residents were asked if they would rather see more high-density housing that is multiple stories high, concentrated in high traffic areas of the city, or if they would rather see more townhomes, condominiums and multi-unit lots with restricted building height to preserve views, spread throughout the city. Twenty-one percent preferred concentrated high-density housing while 79% preferred multi-unit lots spread throughout the city.  

Residents would like to see growth and housing development in small, walkable, neighborhood commercial centers. When thinking about development in growth in general, residents gravitated toward areas of mixed-use with recreation amenities like parks, connected trails and shared green space. Interest in increasing pedestrian friendliness in small urban centers was shown as statistically significant. 

“Things that increase the community feel and the access residents have to the amenities they’re looking for on a regular basis,” Gibb said.

“Where residents largely agree is to plan for the development of small neighborhood commercial centers in future zoning to promote walkability (65%). That is more popular than maintaining large continuous residents zoning with requiring greater traveling to amenities (35%),” Gibb said. 

Out of those surveyed: 88% were white while 12% were people of color; 47% were male, 51% were female, and 2% were other gendered; 87% had children at home while 13% reported having no children at home; 22% were between the ages of 18 and 34, 19% were between the ages of 35 and 44, 18% were between 45 and 54 and also 55 to 64, and 23% were over the age of 65 (and retired).

Thirty percent reported income of over $150,000, 18% reported income between $75,000 and $99,999 and 13% reported income of $100,000 to $124,999. All other income ranges were below 10%. 

The highest income group (150k-plus) report the lowest satisfaction with activities and entertainment, walkability, and trails and open spaces within the city. 

The Cottonwood Heights 2023 Housing Priorities Survey ran between Feb. 7 and March 8. Residents were asked to complete the survey online through postcard, email and text message. There was a 4.5% margin of error for this survey. λ