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Musings of an Energy Nerd

A Community Responds to the Housing Crisis

A non-profit group in Utah is teaching natural building skills to future homeowners

A nearly completed new home under construction in Moab, Utah. Community Rebuilds, a local no-profit, is helping working-class families acquire affordable homes in this new neighborhood, called Arroyo Crossing. [Photo credit: Martin Holladay]

In many areas of the U.S., houses are now so expensive that homeownership is out of reach for working-class Americans. The housing affordability problem is ubiquitous; the basic facts are similar in thousands of communities, from coastal cities to out-of-the way towns in rural Vermont.

To cite one example: workers in Moab, Utah (population 5300) have been complaining for years that housing prices are unaffordable. According to a May 6, 2022 report by KSL-TV journalist Lauren Steinbrecher, “Workers who keep the town [of Moab] running say they can’t afford to live there and there aren’t enough places to rent. … According to the U.S. Census and Utah Department of Workforce Services, between the years 2019 and 2020, gross rent on a three-bedroom home in Grand County, which includes Moab, jumped 44.88%. In that same time span, the average monthly income rose only 8.3%.” In her report, Steinbrecher interviewed Zoe Huston, Community Coordinator for the Moab Valley Multicultural Center, who said, “It’s not an issue of not being able to pay rent. It’s an issue of, there’s literally nowhere to pay it. … Affordable housing is also an issue, but we just don’t have any housing, period.”

Steinbrecher also interviewed Moab Mayor Joette Langianese, who said, “To have our grocery stores staffed, to have our hospitals staffed, to have our police department staffed, you need people that provide these essential services to have a place to live here. They’re permanent, long-term employees and we just do not have the housing capacity, and the availability right now and the affordability to support that. And it’s a serious problem.”

A visit to Moab

This past spring, when my wife and I traveled west for a family wedding, we had the chance to visit four friends who live in Moab. We first stopped…

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  1. AndyKosick | | #1

    I have to say this story gave me a bunch of conflicting feelings. From, “wow this is really beautiful” to “ my god our society is a complete disaster “. I am unsure whether to feel joy for the care and community found here, or despair that it is necessary.

    1. MartinHolladay | | #2

      Every community throughout human history has included members who need care. When we notice people trying to improve neighborliness and providing aid to those who need help, I say, "that's great." These are the characteristics that build strong communities.

      1. Expert Member
        MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #3


        I suspect Andy, like myself and a lot of other people who grew up in the second half of the twentieth century, took on board the expectation that we were moving towards societies where people's basic needs would be met by progressive governments, not left to the charitable actions of their neighbours. We were mistaken.

        1. MartinHolladay | | #4

          Like you, I look forward to a future with more compassionate social programs and a reduced military budget. But in the absence of such governmental policies, I suspect that compassionate local action will continue to be necessary.

          1. Expert Member
            MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #5


            In the early 80s I was lucky enough to live in a co-0p in Ottawa funded by CMHC. Since then things have gone backwards:

            That aside, yes we are lucky when we live among compassionate neighbours who care for each other. It sounds like there are some good people in Moab.

  2. michaelbluejay | | #6

    Hi Martin, glad to see you're still writing interesting articles even in your retirement. I've been a fan for quite a while.

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