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Even though Marcy Wilcox and her two children have lived in a new house at 28 W. Shelley Ave. since April, she still finds it difficult to believe such a dream could come true for a single parent with her income.

"When I first found out that I was going to get the house, I was in shock," said Wilcox, who was on a waiting list with the Utah Housing Finance Agency for 18 months to get a home under the agency's lease-to-own program.Wilcox, with 8-year-old daughter Dominique and 5-year-old son Donald, had lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Sugar House, paying $400 per month. Wilcox slept in the living room and her two children slept in the same bedroom - constantly at each other's throats because they didn't have privacy.

But now, the Wilcoxes have a three-bedroom house with a kitchen, living room, one bathroom, a sliding glass door leading to a patio, a one-car garage, landscaping, a sprinkler system, a fenced back yard and sod. "Everything is new; it's a treat to have new things, and it is a welcome shock," a delighted Wilcox said in describing her house.

The best thing for Wilcox is that her monthly house payment is $400, the same as she was paying for the apartment. Three other houses financed through the UHFA were built in the same general area of South Salt Lake.

Wilcox obtained her house through a leasing program that allows would-be homebuyers a chance to own their own homes, according to William H. Erickson, UHFA executive director. Under the program, banks provide the money for the new house and are entitled to a credit on their tax bills.

Residents earning below $20,000 annually qualify for the CROWN program. After 15 years, the tenants have the option of purchasing their home at a greatly reduced price, and UHFA will assist in obtaining low-interest financing when the resident purchases the home.

Erickson said this program is popular with local government officials because usually the new houses are constructed on abandoned or weed-filled lots. Alan E. Ness, UHFA communications director, said the new houses pump life into neighborhoods, and others feel like they need to fix up their homes, benefiting the entire area.

Another of UHFA's offerings is the Comprehensive Housing Assistance Mortgage Program, which allows first-time homebuyers a chance at affordable housing by deferring down payments and closing costs until the house is sold. It also provides insurance and low-interest emergency-repair loans to cover problems in the first five years of ownership.

Two of the people to take advantage of the CHAMPS program were David and Kayla Lundberg, who moved into an existing house at 3155 S. 9200 West, Magna, on Feb. 1, 1996. They lived in Idaho but wanted to come to the Salt Lake area, so they and their one child moved in with David's parents.

A Realtor told them about the CHAMPS program, and after qualifying, they purchased an existing home built in the early 1980s. Kayla said they pay $581 per month, which is lower than some of their relatives are paying for an apartment.

For the $581 per month, they got a three-bedroom house with siding, one bathroom and another bathroom roughed in downstairs, a one-car garage and a storage area that could be converted to another bedroom.

Kayla works out of her house and David does construction work, but it would have taken them much longer to get into a house if they had to save for a down payment and closing costs. Kayla said the CHAMPS program is good for young people without much money.

Erickson said about 2,500 Utahns have purchased homes under the CHAMPS program.

Another UHFA program is the construction or remodeling of apartments under a tax credit program that has allowed the agency to provide 6,000 apartment units since 1987. That is 60 percent of the apartments built in the entire state.

Erickson said Congress is attempting to eliminate the tax credits as a way to balance the federal budget, but Utah, led by Gov. Mike Leavitt, is pushing to keep the program.

The governor said, "Affordable housing in Utah is a process, not a task. I am very pleased with the work of the Utah Housing Finance Agency in helping thousands of Utahns access our housing market through a variety of options, including low-cost apartments, lease-to-own programs and low-interest loans."

UHFA's tax shelter programs ensure rental rates are affordable and they must remain that way for 99 years.

Since its creation by the Legislature in 1975 to provide housing for low- to moderate-income Utahns, UHFA has put 35,000 families in their own houses. Utah is authorized by Congress to sell a certain amount of tax-exempt bonds for "private activity," and Utah gets $150 million per year by this means.

Every 45-60 days, UHFA brokers about $25 million for first-time homebuyers. All Realtors and homebuilders in Utah are notified about the issuance of 30-year fixed-rate loans at a rate usually 1 percent lower than offered by banks, Erickson said.

As a result, about $1 million goes into the Utah economy daily because such a program has a big impact on housing contractors.

Erickson said 20,000 construction jobs have been created since the program started in 1975. In addition, the program contributes $600 million annually in wages, the contractors pay $40 million in state taxes and $10 million in local taxes and the homeowners pay $14 million in property taxes.

Also, getting people into houses makes apartments available to others, which is important in today's tight apartment rental market, Erickson said.

To raise the money for the houses, UHFA sells its bonds to pension funds, large bond funds and insurance companies. Erickson said UHFA bonds are rated AAA by rating agencies and the general obligation bonds are rated A1. Of the $2.3 billion in bonds sold by UHFA, $1.2 billion is still outstanding.

In order to qualify for the UHFA program, a person must not have owned a house in the past three years unless buying a home in a targeted area. Targeted areas are all of Duchesne, Garfield, Iron, Juab, Kane, Piute, San Juan, Sanpete, Utah and Wayne counties, Enterprise, Midvale and South Salt Lake and portions of Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County and Ogden.

Based on the location of the home purchased, the buyer's total gross annual income from all sources cannot exceed a certain amount, Erickson said. For more information on UHFA's programs, visit the office at 554 S. 300 East, or call 521-6950.