SALT LAKE CITY — Bruce Schumann's 24-year-old son, Tyler, followed in his father's footsteps when he joined the Marines.
Now Schumann, of West Jordan, said his son, who just got discharged from the military, is ready to start a "lifelong career" as a police officer.
But there's a problem.
Even with his military benefits, Schumann said his son is struggling to find a home he can afford in the Salt Lake Valley, where he's applied to multiple police agencies including Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake and Murray.
"He's just overwhelmed," Schumann said.
Finding an affordable place to live in the cities where they work is an ever-increasing struggle for not only police officers, but also other public servants like firefighters, emergency medical technicians, dispatchers, nurses and teachers.
That's why Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski on Thursday presented a $100,000 check to the Community Development Corporation of Utah, a nonprofit devoted to helping homeowners, to launch the Community Heroes Home Buyer Program, a program meant to help those public servants work — and live — in Salt Lake City.
"Why does this matter? Homeownership is the key to neighborhood stability," Biskupski said at a news conference Thursday. "And who better to have in your neighborhood than someone who spends their working life bringing that stability to Salt Lake City through their employment?"
The $100,000 comes from the city's sales tax hike approved last year, meant to fund affordable housing initiatives among other city priorities.
The Community Heroes program, Biskupski said, is expected to aid between six and eight qualified families who make below 80 percent of the city's area median income, which is currently $44,800 a year for a single household and $64,000 for a family of four. The mayor said she hopes the city will expand the program in future years.
"When asked why individuals leave the capital city, one of the main reasons is related to the cost of homeownership," Biskupski said, "so it is critical we address this issue as part of our overall affordable housing strategy."
The new program comes after Utah's largest homebuilder, Ivory Homes, launched a program to help teachers, police, firefighters, veterans, construction workers, nurses, and first-time homebuyers earning less than $70,000 afford homes by reserving properties at more affordable price points.
The Community Heroes program would provide a zero percent deferred loan ranging between 3 percent and 5 percent of the price of the home to be used as a down payment, and loan payments would be deferred until the mortgage is paid off or the property is sold.
Schumann, who attended Thursday's announcement, said the program could make all the difference for people like his son, who wants to live where they work and not break their budget. If police live where they work, they can build relationships with their neighbors, which could help them do their jobs, he said.
"It's going to impact not only families but also communities," he said.
Schumann applauded Salt Lake City for taking action to care for public servants, especially in an "age where there's a lot of confrontation" between the public and law enforcement.
"It's taking care of the people that care for us — I think we forget about that," he said.
Lisa Burnette, director of Salt Lake City's 911 Dispatch Center, said the program would be "a huge benefit" for her staff, adding that she expects several of her dispatchers to apply once they hear about it.
"Right now, dispatchers don't make a lot of money, so coming up with that down payment is significant for them," she said. "Housing in Salt Lake City has gotten crazy, and our staff members live outside of the city."
Biskupski launched the program standing in front of a city-owned home available for purchase through the city's Community Land Trust Program, which began in 2017 to help lower the cost of homes by preserving the land a home is built on in a permanent city trust.
That means the city would keep ownership of the land beneath the home after purchase, meaning the homebuyer would only be paying for the cost of the home itself.
So what's the purchase price of the three-bedroom, two-bath, newly remodeled home in Salt Lake City's west-side neighborhood? $208,000. That's compared to Salt Lake County's median sales price of a single-family home in 2018: $355,000.
It's the fourth housing program Biskupski has launched over the past month, in total using $400,000 of the sales tax funding to assist about 120 to find stable housing in the next year. Other programs target K-12 students, people with mental illness, and the homeless.
"By creating multiple solutions to the complexities and cost of home ownership, Salt Lake City is ensuring the American dream remains viable for all in our city," Biskupski said.