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Homes near completion at C.W. Farms, an Ivory Homes development in Magna, on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News, File

New program targets housing affordability for Ogden government employees and educators

By Lauren Bennett, | Posted - Feb. 23, 2021 at 4:19 p.m.

OGDEN — For years Utah has been an innovation hub with a booming economy, prompting thousands to settle in the Beehive State. As Gov. Spencer Cox puts it, "the secret is out."

While it's great so many people want to live in the state, Cox said every great thing comes with a downside: Utahns have been priced out of their home state.

But for some Ogden workers, through a unique partnership between a San Francisco and Denver-based residential brokerage firm with Ogden City and Ogden School District, a solution is on the horizon. The city and school district teamed up with Landed to help local government employees and educators living in Ogden afford homes, officials announced Monday morning. The partnership is the first of its kind with the company in Utah.

"As Ogden home prices continue to rise, it's critical to help essential professionals to afford to live near the communities they serve, and we are honored to help uphold those who uphold this community on a daily basis," Ian Magruder, Landed's head of partnerships, said in a news release.

The down payment program will help government employees and educators to reach a 20% down payment so that homebuyers can avoid paying mortgage insurance and other fees associated with buying a home, according to a news release. Landed funds up to $120,000 per household and are in the form of equity investment, so the buyers share the gain, or loss, of the home's value once the partnership has ended, either by sale or refinance.

"We are excited about really making a big step forward in the name of housing affordability, which is such a critical issue in our state," said Clark Ivory, the CEO of Ivory Homes, at a Monday news conference.

Utah is currently facing a housing shortage as prices continue to rise. The supply simply cannot meet the demand; and with low-interest rates, the demand continues to grow, driving prices further up and causing many first-time homebuyers, among others, to be priced out of the market, Ivory explained.

"We want our employees to experience financial stability in their careers and this down payment assistance program is a giant step in the right direction," Caldwell said.

Less than 2,000 homes are available for sale on the market right now, according to Cox, compared to what should be about 20,000-30,000 homes for sale this time of year. As more people have moved into the state, it has driven the price of homes up and has led to housing affordability and availability issues across the state, Cox said.

"Homeownership is a critical component of building long-term wealth and financial stability; we understand that housing affordability issues are mounting across the state," said Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell. "The Landed program will have a direct and immediate impact in this area."

As the state grapples with a shortage of teachers, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ogden School District Superintendent Rich Nye said its crucial to identify the causes of that shortage. Low wages contribute to a myriad of those issues, like home ownership, Cox said.

"As educators partner hand in hand with parents to raise children, more can and should be done to make education a profession … to pursue," he said.

Utah's recent growth and the resulted housing crisis are unsustainable, Cox said, noting that along with housing affordability programs like Ogden's, the state legislature needs to reform regulations and wages need to rise. In addition, Cox believes construction costs need to come down to help with affordability.

"The cool thing about Utah is that we don't rely on government to solve all of these problems, we rely on our nonprofit sector, we rely on the private sector — we expect more of businesses, of entrepreneurs, of philanthropists," Cox said.

"This is just the beginning — we still have a long ways to go."

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