WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC4) – With more and more people moving to Utah, the already short supply of places for them to live, and the subsequent hike in rental and housing prices, affordable housing experts and advocates have been sounding the alarm for quite some time. Although — according to data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition — Utah is still short about 45,000 low income rental units, local organizations like the Utah Nonprofit Housing Corporation (UNHC) are beginning to chip away at this number.
The Utah Housing Preservation Fund (UHPF), which is managed through the UNHC, has recently purchased and remodeled an apartment complex which they report will be able to house about 90 low- to moderate-income Utah families.
The fund was founded in March 2020 with the mission of keeping rent prices affordable for Utahns. In order to do this, the team at UHPF moves fast to purchase properties before out-of-state investors — who usually raise the rents — can.
So far, the fund has five key investors, and has also garnered support from local philanthropic community leaders as well as several community-centric banks who the fund’s manager, Doug Harris, says “have the same vision.” In addition, Harris says the fund has established working relationships with several real estate brokers, which helps them to stay up-to-date with property availability and get a leg up in terms of moving quickly to purchase.
“The fund finds its origins in some community leaders who saw the rising prices and saw apartment complexes being sold to out-of-state investors, who would turn around and raise the rents and displace families,” said Harris. “So what we do is, once an apartment complex like this becomes available, we use some of our capital and we move quickly.”
The complex, Aspen Village Apartments in West Valley City, is the fourth property the fund has secured since its inception in March 2020. So far, they’ve been able to provide nearly 400 units to Utah’s low- and moderate-income families. The fund also recently achieved their $100 million funding goal, and plan to continue providing new, affordable units for years to come.
Other properties that have been similarly purchased and renovated by the UHPF include the Canyon Echo apartments in Salt Lake City, the Hidden Pointe Apartments in West Valley City, and 23 duplexes located in Salt Lake City.
“We’re extremely proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in less than two years, nearly 400 units. It was extremely challenging but we’re extremely proud of it,” Harris said. “We feel like we’ve built an emblematic model, a model that could be scaled and that other states could use to help solve their affordable housing crisis.”