EPHRAIM — The Ephraim City Housing Authority recently asked the Ephraim City Council to collaborate with them in a new subdivision the housing authority would like to develop on city land.
The housing authority builds homes and sells them to qualified families. Traditionally, the homes have been 1,450 square feet on the main level with an unfinished basement.
To help families get into the homes at a lower cost, the housing authority pays the city impact fees as well as the sewer and water connection costs. The housing authority then puts a second lien on the home at zero percent interest for the amount of the impact and connection fees. The owner is required to pay the money back in order to remove the lien.
“The current housing market has made it difficult to build single family units, as we have in the past, and to stay within the affordable parameters set by the USDA Rural Development office,” Lorna Olson, Ephraim Housing Authority director, told the city council at a meeting May 18.
“According to the guidelines for Sanpete County, a family of four can make up to $78,300, which would qualify them for a home valued at about $320,000. The problem is that this amount does not buy a livable home in Ephraim at today’s prices, even a small one.”
The housing authority proposed to buy property owned by Ephraim City in the northwest part of town. One of the options the authority is considering is to coordinate with the Six County Association of Governments and build homes in the proposed subdivision using the Six-County mutual self-help program. This is where four to eight families work together to build their homes.
This program would bring building costs down significantly and give families equity walking in the door of the homes. The program does ask each participating family to commit to working 30 hours per week on the homes. And it takes approximately one year to finish the project. Interested families may contact the Ephraim Housing Authority to find out more.
“We just learned we can appeal that maximum house value amount at the state level, asking for an increased amount, and they will consider it, if they get enough appeals from a county,” Olson said.
Councilwoman Margie Anderson, the city council liaison with the housing authority, said the state will be offering a grant program to help with affordable housing, with some one-time funding available beginning in 2023.
“The real problem is that we don’t have any land, so we haven’t been able to offer our services to needy Ephraim families during the last year,” Olson said. “If we could offer a small home with an unfinished basement, then families can add equity to their property, and that’s better than just paying rent. Another option is to put in townhomes or duplexes if the cost of building doesn’t come down.”
Mayor John Scott asked the housing authority to come up with more details, including how much land they want to purchase and a basic subdivision layout. The proposal with more detail will be discussed at a future city council meeting.