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Affordable housing hard to find

The silver lining of the economic downturn is that real estate has not been so affordable in years.

That may be true, but Scott Loomis, executive director of the Mountainlands Community Housing Trust an organization that helps lower-income families find housing said lower home prices aren’t making a difference for the demographic most in need of affordable homes.

"It’s very difficult for anyone to get financing now," Loomis said Monday. "People who qualified a few years ago absolutely don’t qualify now."

That’s been a familiar phrase since the recession began but usually spoken in reference to vacation home buyers. Realtors have been frustrated in recent years that potential investors can no longer get loans for units in condominium hotels.

But the regulations on federally-subsidized mortgages and down payments have also gotten stricter, Loomis said. They’re practically designed to keep people from buying units in ski towns.

One program that local teachers, firefighters and police officers have used for years will not permit a mortgage if a certain percentage of units in a condominium building are vacation homes. Another will not allow mortgages on condominiums in small projects.

Still another wants proof a homeowner association has a balanced budget and successfully carries out its property maintenance duties, he said.

Within the last two weeks Loomis said he’s worked with three different women who were unable to find a unit they could afford, met their needs and they qualified for. Each was authorized for around $250,000, but that wasn’t enough.

A Realtor might locate several properties for that range on a multi-listing service, but there are major obstacles for people making less than 80 percent of the area’s median income to get into those homes, he said.

Homes near Kimball Junction are usually priced at $300,000 or above despite falling home values.

Investors are buying foreclosed properties, or those in short sales, in bulk. That’s making it hard for a single individual to make an attractive deal.

"The people I’m working with are trying to find units out there and are having an extremely difficult time finding anything they want," he said.

The most affordable condominiums right now are in condo hotels, he said. These aren’t suitable for working families. Regular residential housing is still out of the price range for many despite declining values. The situation is slightly better on the East Side, but not by much. And there’s value to having teachers, peace officers and government employees living in the communities they serve, he added.

East Side governments have also made it clear they aren’t interested in becoming the bedroom communities for Park City and the Snyderville Basin, Loomis said.


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