The Schutte family was at the end of its rope several years ago. Chris Schutte, a father of two, was hit by an uninsured drunk driver. Forced into enormous debt from medical bills, the family declared bankruptcy and had to leave their home. Now, because of the help of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, the Schutte family will soon own their own home.
After moving from Hawaii to Summit County, moving in with Chris' mother, the Schuttes found an apartment but were later evicted. Michele Schutte, Chris' wife, said that was when the family went to the Housing Trust to see if the organization could help them find a place to live.
The Schuttes entered the Housing Trust's Temporary Housing program, later being informed about CROWN, a Credits-to-Own program that allows families to purchase a house at below-market price after renting it for 15 years. Schutte is amazed at how quickly the family was able to get back up on their feet.
"[The car accident] ruined our lives for a couple of years," Schutte said. "We walked in [to MCHT] thinking it would take several months. Within 40 minutes, we walked out with a set of keys."
Scott Loomis, executive director of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, said CROWN is a unique program in the state of Utah.
"[CROWN] utilizes low-income housing tax credits, which are traditionally used to provide equity for multi-family rentals," Loomis said.
Loomis said that if a family rents a $200,000 home, CROWN provides $80,000 of equity while the family rents the house for a 15-year period. After 15 years, the family can purchase the home for $120,000 or less after renting at a below-market price.
"If the home appreciates and is worth twice as much in 15 years, they still have that purchase price locked in," Loomis said.
"Paying less rent and having the option to even buy the home at less than the market value it's amazing. It's a great feeling," Schutte said. "We were not able to benefit from everything else because of our income. Most of the time we were right in the middle."
The Schuttes, who have two boys, Tristen and Noah, found the extra space in their new home welcoming, as they went from 925 square feet to 1,300. Schutte said the family's whole experience with the Housing Trust was smooth.
"Everything just happened so quickly. It's the easiest thing I've had to deal with in four years," Schutte said.
Loomis said the Housing Trust currently has eight CROWN homes in Summit County, six in Wasatch County and four more will be built in Francis next spring. The Housing Trust screens all interested tenants and Loomis said the program is invaluable.
"[These programs] give people options that they normally wouldn't have," Loomis said. "If somebody is homeless, there are not too many places they can turn."
Loomis added that many families want to purchase a home but have no idea how they can qualify credit-wise or cannot come up with a down payment.
"I was really surprised because I thought we couldn't qualify," Schutte said. "Just to find out that even though our credit was messed up, the option to have an opportunity to get into a home is what drew us to [the Housing Trust]."
Schutte encouraged other families who find themselves in a similar financial situation to research their options.
"Most of us think there is nothing out there, but you just need to do your research," Schutte said. "You never know. I didn't think we were going to find anything."