WASHINGTON TERRACE – As it stands, Abby Reader, a junior high school music teacher, believed she and her family would rent a long time into the indefinite future.
She and her husband, Kevin, living in a rental too small for their growing family, hoped to have their own home. But given the type of down payment required and the ever-rising house prices – the subject of scrutiny by politicians, housing advocates and others along the Wasatch front – the dream seemed out of reach.
“It was extremely frustrating. We had come to the point where we had given up, ”she said.
A new program to help professionals – think teachers, healthcare workers, firefighters and police – has given them new hope, however. The Rocky Mountain Homes Fund gave them the support they needed to acquire a home in Washington Terrace – the reader’s dream has finally come true – and the promoters of the program are hoping they can help many more people across Utah.
Steve Waldrip, a Utah House representative from the Eden area, helped create the nonprofit program – separate from his duties as a legislator – and he’s thinking big. Intermountain Healthcare, the Salt Lake City-based nonprofit healthcare system, is involved and fund representatives are looking for additional partners.
“It’s crazy what’s going on just in east-central Ogden,” said Waldrip, alluding to soaring house prices. “It was brutal for the working professionals. “
So far this year, the Rocky Mountain Homes Fund, or RMHF, has helped six Weber County families move into homes, the first participants in the program. Given the current conditions, Waldrip doesn’t think any of them would have otherwise been able to reach the milestone anytime soon.
And now he is hoping for exponential growth as RMHF representatives seek new investors and partners in the initiative, making it easier to get down payments on housing and secure affordable financing. With more money, Waldrip hopes to help more families, possibly up to 60 in the next round of the RMHF. Specifically, from an initial funding pot of around $ 2 million, he hopes to increase it, at least initially, to $ 10 million. In the coming years, he hopes to increase available funding to $ 50 million and expand the program’s reach to Washington, Cache, Salt Lake and Utah counties.
In the case of the Reader family, the program helped them move from a 900 square foot rental in Roy to a 2,100 square foot home in Washington Terrace. The couple have three young children, which gives each more room to move around. Significantly, this also gives them a big investment for the future.
“This is our first big investment that we have really made. It feels good, we’re making progress, ”said Abby Reader, music teacher at Sand Ridge Junior High School in Roy.
DEPOSITS, INTEREST RATES
Part of the housing crisis in Utah stems from a lack of homes to buy, which is pushing up prices. In Weber County, the median home price is currently around $ 400,000, while it is $ 550,000 in Salt Lake County, a 28% jump from last year. according to UtahRealEstate.com, an industry organization.
The RMHF may not necessarily remedy the housing shortage, but it does help solve some of the problems that make it difficult for low-income families to afford the price of housing. Notably, it helps cover the down payment on a house, typically 20% of its value. It also helps homeowners get a reasonable rate of interest on their home loans so they can afford the monthly mortgage payments.
Through equity splitting, RMHF holds a partial stake in the homes of the families it helps, which helps control costs for buyers. But owners can refinance and repurchase RMHF stakes over the years and that’s the hope.
Likewise, the goal is for program investors to get a return on the funding they have put in place to help families. “It’s not charity,” said Waldrip.
For Intermountain Healthcare, the hope in helping the effort is to strengthen “health outcomes”, that is, to actually improve the health of program participants. The health system, which operates McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, contributed $ 1 million.
“The body of evidence suggests that improving housing stability alone can help increase access to regular health care, and this increased access to regular health care can dramatically improve health outcomes.” , Intermountain said in a press release.
Nicholas Fritz, director of impact investing for Intermountain, also noted that homeownership can actually lower housing costs. This, in turn, can give families more funds for other things, such as healthier diets and access to recreation and exercise.
Helping to create the Rocky Mountain Homes Fund, Waldrip spent about five years exploring the possibilities. RMHF, he said, is unique: “There is nothing like it.