OGDEN — As Utah’s housing crisis worsens, officials announced a new partnership Tuesday that will aid employees of Ogden City, Ogden School District and Roy City in purchasing a home.
Landed, a Bay Area startup that partners with public entities to help their employees get a foot in the housing market, is launching in Ogden — its first location in the state.
“This incredible concept, this incredible idea, that is going to participate with teachers and public employees to again help them achieve the American dream of owning a home, and we need that more than ever,” said Gov. Spencer Cox at a press conference announcing the partnerships.
According to a March 2018 report published by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, the growth in Utah’s housing prices since 1991 has outpaced every state except Colorado, Montana and Oregon. Meanwhile, the annual rate of increase in housing prices, at 3.32%, is more than nine times higher than the rate of increase for household income, which is 0.36%.
The difficulty of purchasing a home has been compounded by a housing shortage and a competitive market due to low interest rates on mortgages. While there would typically be 20,000-30,000 homes on the market in Utah at this time of year, Cox said, there are currently fewer than 2,000 available.
Among the things Cox attributed the high demand for housing to is a business boom throughout the state. Ogden was one of three cities in the state to rank in the top 10 for large cities on the Milken Institute’s 2021 Best-Performing Cities Index for economic growth.
“Those are all great, great things, but they lead to problems, and one of the problems is housing affordability,” Cox said.
That’s where Landed comes in. For public employees, like teachers and first responders, whose salaries often fall below Utah’s median household income — which, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was $71,621 in 2019 — making a down payment on a home can be difficult.
Through its down payment program, Landed helps employees of partner organizations reach 20% down on a home, which helps them avoid paying mortgage insurance and consequently reduces monthly costs.
“This program is designed to help families who have some savings, but not enough to easily buy a home on their own to get that boost they need by co-investing in their home,” said Ian Magruder, head of partnerships at Landed.
The down payment program is not a loan, Magruder noted, but a shared investment. The client does not make monthly payments to Landed. Instead, if the company assists with half of the down payment, for example, it would then share in 25% of the long-term gain or loss in property value.
Employees with Ogden City, Ogden School District and Roy City, specifically, will have access to up to $120,000 in shared equity down payment support, according to Magruder.
“So we believe this is a fair and sustainable way to address the challenge,” Magruder said. “We can then reinvest that capital into future essential professionals’ homes over the long term.”
For those who aren’t interested in the down payment program, Landed will also connect employees with other resources to help them purchase a home, like a network of lenders and real estate agents, as well as educational materials on the housing market.
Since its founding in 2015, the company has assisted more than 500 families in expensive housing markets across the country, including San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, Boston and Washington, D.C., according to Magruder. In 2019, it won a $200,000 prize grant from Ivory Innovations, an organization operating out of the University of Utah’s business school, to support solutions to the national housing affordability crisis.
Following the recognition from Ivory Innovations, according to Magruder, “Ogden reached out to us to explore potentially bringing the program to this community.”
“This is an amazing benefit for government employees, public safety officials, as well as our educators,” said Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell. “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 to benefit those who are able to take advantage of this really unique and innovative program.”
For the Ogden School District, these types of benefits are instrumental in recruiting and retaining teachers — a difficult task as Utah continues to struggle through a yearlong teacher shortage.
While Cox acknowledged teachers in the state should be paid more, and said his administration is working on that, Superintended Rich Nye said some of the state’s recent actions — like prioritizing educators to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and awarding teachers a bonus — in addition to this program help teachers feel appreciated and want to stick around.
“What this does for us is be able to recruit educators to want to come to Ogden, to come to Utah and to stay, to grow roots, to become part of the community, this community that we love,” Nye said.