Structure Fire 12

Ogden City Fire Department responds to a house fire on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, on Adams Avenue in downtown Ogden.

OGDEN — A program that helps people buy homes in Ogden has been a success, city officials say, but there’s still one significant marker in the plan where they’d like to see improvement.

Cathy Fuentes, grants administrator for Ogden, said the city’s Own in Ogden program provided 74 loans (worth a total of $442,576) to home buyers during 2020. Established in 1988, the program is designed to help low- to moderate-income residents own homes inside Ogden city boundaries.

To be eligible, residents must have an income of 80% or lower of the median Weber County household income, although the income requirement can be waived for public safety workers, like police officers and firefighters.

The program is funded through federal dollars doled out by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. If they meet the income requirements, potential buyers looking to purchase a home in Ogden can receive 0% interest, deferred payment loans of up to $5,000 — money that is to be used toward a down payment.

And the program is even more cost-effective for firefighters, police officers and teachers.

Ogden teachers can receive a $10,000 loan under the program, and after the Ogden City Council approved a measure last year that doubled the maximum loan amount for city public safety workers, police and fire employees can now receive a down payment assistance loan of up to $20,000.

Although the program is carried out largely with Ogden teachers and public safety employees in mind, Fuentes said only two teachers and two police officers received the loans in 2020.

“We are hoping to assist more firefighters and police officers,” Fuentes said. “We do have some money set aside for them.”

The additional money for public safety employees was seen as a way to help with retention and recruitment of Ogden firefighters and police officers, which has been an issue in the city for several years.

Public safety employees in Ogden received a 4% raise in 2019 — a requisite action that came as part of a previously adopted step pay program — but representatives from each department have told the Ogden City Council that noncompetitive pay is still depleting their ranks, particularly among longtime employees with valuable work experience.

And 2020 made matters worse as the city suspended pay raises across the board amid COVID-19 related financial concerns.

The city plans to continue to promote the program to its public safety employees, and officials say despite their lack of involvement, the program has been a success. The city initially wanted to provided 45 of the loans during 2020, a number far surpassed by the 74 they ultimately gave out.

“I know we had some feedback that maybe it wasn’t enough or it would not work because of the real estate market,” said Council member Angela Choberka. “So I’m really excited to see that the program is working and is really effective.”

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