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Officials from the public and private sector gathered with a large group of Salt Lake apartment complex residents Monday in what was described as a "celebration" of the new lease on life given the Ashford Chase apartments, 780 N. 900 West.

"Ashford Chase: New Beginnings," the rededication of the 418-unit apartment complex, will benefit more than 160 low- and moderate-income families in Salt Lake City, said David Jeffers, spokesman for the Washington D.C.-based Federal National Mortgage Association, better known as Fannie Mae, which terms itself "The USA's Housing Partner."Fannie Mae is a congressionally chartered, shareholder-owned company that is the nation's largest investor in home mortgages. Until recently, it was the owner, on a foreclosure, of the Ashford Chase.

Under what Jeffers said was a "unique arrangement," Fannie Mae sold the apartment block last month to Thompson Michie Associates Inc., a Salt Lake-based owner/operator of rental properties.

Under the arrangement, the Housing Authority of Salt Lake City agreed to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance the acquisition - and forthcoming rehabilitation - of the complex. Jeffers said Fannie Mae will provide "credit enhancement" for the bond issue by issuing its mortgage-backed securities.

The acquisition provides that 40 percent or 168 of the Ashford Chase units be set aside for low- and moderate-income residents of Salt Lake City.

"Decent affordable rental housing can be created and the dignity of low-income renters can be ensured," said James A. Johnson, chairman and chief executive officer of Fannie Mae who came to Utah for the 10 a.m. ceremony. "The concerned and creative people of Salt Lake City have shown the way."

Among officials and residents gathered for the ceremony, Johnson was joined by Mayor Palmer DePaulis, Housing Authority Chairman Norton Parker and Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, whom Johnson thanked for his "support and leadership" in affordable housing.

Johnson termed the purchase and renovation of Ashford Chase an example of Fannie Mae's commitment to affordable housing. "We're proud to be able to show how public-private partnerships can work to provide housing for low-income residents in Salt Lake City," he said.

James Michie, president of Thompson Michie, said he and his associates "look forward to renovating the property and being a good neighbor to the Rose Park community."

In his discussion of the city's housing policy, DePaulis said low- and moderate-income housing is "critical to the needs of many of our citizens. These units will serve those who need affordable housing."

Renovation of the Ashford Chase is scheduled to begin this summer.