Gov. Cox addresses affordable housing, homelessness in 2024 State of the State Address

Much of Cox's annual speech centered on affordable housing, homelessness and service

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Spencer Cox gave his 28-minute State of the State address yesterday, highlighting what he believes to be Utah’s unique strengths and outlining his vision for the state’s future.

“My friends, the State of the State is as strong as it’s ever been. And I’m convinced with every passing day that the source of our state’s strength is what for the longest time people told us was our weakness,” Cox said. “We’re different. We’re weird. The good kind of weird. The kind of weird the rest of the nation is desperate for right now. And I’m praying we can keep it that way.”

One of the key challenges facing Utah, according to Cox, is the cost of housing. Late last year the governor introduced the Utah First Homes program, which aims to build 35,000 starter homes in the next five years. The program includes initiatives to expand first-time homebuyer assistance, create sweat equity, invest in community land trusts, and build more affordable housing.

“I believe the single largest threat to our future prosperity is the price of housing. Period. Housing attainability is a crisis in Utah and every state in this country. But remember, we are weird. We aren’t like the rest of the country. No one has figured this out yet, and I truly believe that we can,” Cox said.

Cox also called for both compassion and accountability in managing Utah’s increasing homeless population. According to data from the Utah Department of Workforce Services, 10.9 out of every 10,000 Utahns experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2023, a number that has continually increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In December, Cox recommended $128 million in the fiscal year 2025 budget to go toward stabilizing the current emergency shelter system and providing support for additional shelter options.

“There is nothing compassionate about allowing people to suffer and die on our streets and there is nothing compassionate about allowing laws to be flagrantly ignored and broken. We can provide help AND demand accountability. Unsanctioned camping must end. We will provide help and services for those in need, real consequences and jail for those who willingly break the law, and civil commitment when absolutely necessary,” Cox stated.

Cox also proposed a pilot program to encourage service hours for high school students, a year-long service fellowship for young adults, and tuition benefits and bonuses for those who choose to serve in the Utah National Guard.

Watch the full State of the State Address below.

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