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Some Utah Officers Can't Afford to Live Where They Work

Some Utah Officers Can't Afford to Live Where They Work

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PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- The rising cost of real estate means many Utah police officers can't afford to live in the communities they serve.

Only two of Draper's 32 officers live there. In Park City, nine officers get subsidies to live in the area. Centerville is allowing officers to take a vehicle home if they live anywhere in Davis County.

"A household shouldn't have to spend more than 30 percent of its income on housing-related costs," said Bill Erickson, president of the Utah Housing Corp., which provides low-interest loans and rent subsidies.

"But we know that a lot of renters and home-buyers are spending 40 to 50 percent of their wages for housing," he said.

Officer Allen Ackerson bought a house two years ago in North Salt Lake for $145,000 because he couldn't afford one in Centerville. He isn't lobbying for higher pay.

"In Centerville, they're very regular on raises. They take care of us," Ackerson said. "Land values have taken off, and pay hasn't had a chance to catch up."

In Park City, the ski-and-celebrity spot in Summit County, the average home sale in 2006 was $952,175, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

The community pays a $250-a-month housing allowance to officers who reside within the school district. It also subsidizes a limited number of town homes in the city.

"Sometimes we'll lose an officer to the (Salt Lake) valley, where it's more affordable," Lt. Phil Kirk says. "Some want a shorter commute and can't afford to live up here."

Park City Detective Mike Fierro, 55, and his wife, a city dispatcher, each qualify for the $250 housing allowance. They rent a subsidized two-bedroom unit for $844 a month.

"It's a little more laid back, and we get to interact more with the community," said Fierro, who has worked in South Salt Lake and Salt Lake City. "We have the luxury to follow up on everything, and as an investigator, that's a lot of fun."

In Draper, south of Salt Lake City, the population has grown to 36,445 from 4,995 in 1990. Average household income has more than tripled.

"There is housing our officers can afford to buy here, but their choices are very limited," Sgt. Gerald Allred said. "At base pay, about $40,000 a year, they can't afford the nicer homes in the city."

Draper allows officers to take patrol cars home if they live within a 25-mile radius.

"It goes back to choice. You can get more for your money in a neighboring city," Allred said.

------ Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune,

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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