HEBER, Utah (ABC4) – Parts of Utah’s increasingly expensive housing market are now pricing out police from affording homes where they work. To offset the market, at least one police department has changed a few policies to help themselves and their officers get through it, in this edition of Behind the Badge.
Heber Valley, Utah is home to some of the state’s most beautiful mountain neighborhoods, but more and more it’s not the home of the city’s police force.
“It’s just hard to keep up with the cost of the housing market here,” said Heber City Police Department Sgt. Brayden Powers.
What may seem like your typical Utah homes are simply out of officers’ price range, police tell ABC4.
“In this neighborhood, they start around $800,000, and go up to about $1.1 million or $1.3 million,” said Heber City Police Det. Heath Harvey.
Detective Harvey, who also owns a real estate business, said new homes are going up all the time, but with the current market, single-family homes are now going for $1 million dollars, townhomes at $750,000, and even the cost of condos have climbed to a half a million.
“Things are coming down with the interest rates being so high, but I don’t see them coming down to the point where our officers can afford them,” said Harvey.
A prime example is Heber patrol officer Chandra Crosby. She drives in each day from Eagle Mountain, because that’s the closest place she could find an affordable home – her daily commute is anywhere from one to two hours each way, depending on traffic.
“I tried to get as close to Heber, as Wasatch County as possible, but especially on a single income it was not possible,” said Officer Crosby.
Crosby embodies both Heber’s pricey housing problem and the city’s solution. Recognizing officers couldn’t pay the going mortgage rates in town, Heber expanded the radius officers could live outside the city, now allowing officers to live up to 35 miles from Heber Main Street. Crosby is the first hire since the change, and she loves the Heber Police Dept. so much that she couldn’t care less about the commute.
“It was a no-brainer for me, and I don’t want to work anywhere else. So, I’ll make that hour or two-hour commute as long as I need to,” said Crosby.
Heber gives her a take-home car and allows her to clock in while she’s on the road, but that also goes for other officers who want to watch their children’s sporting events or dance recitals during their shifts.
“If my daughter has a dance rehearsal, I’m there in uniform, watching the rehearsal with a lot of support around me,” said Harvey.
The relaxed rules have helped Heber find more police recruits and said it’s helped boost department morale.
“People all the time put a price tag on their happiness, and we don’t want to be the reason why people put a price tag on their happiness,” said Powers.
So, while new officers may not afford to live where they work, they said wearing the badge in Heber couldn’t make them happier.
Heber tells me their officers make between $30 and $43 dollars per hour depending on their experience. Since changing the home radius policy in Heber, police said they’ve seen more potential officers apply for jobs.