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The City Journals

South Jordan City and Ivory Homes partnership yields city’s first subsidized workforce housing development

Apr 28, 2021 01:03PM ● By Mariden Williams

Mayor Dawn Ramsey (right) and other South Jordan officials worked closely with Ivory Homes to bring the project to life. (South Jordan Communications and Ivory Homes)

By Mariden Williams | [email protected]

On April 29, South Jordan unveiled its first-ever subsidized workforce housing development, built in partnership with Ivory Homes. 

The Bingham Court development, located at 11400 South and 1300 West, has nine townhomes reserved especially for workers like city employees, police officers and school teachers. Each of those nine lots is subsidized by the city's redevelopment funds, and will be sold for $100,000 below market value. The homes are exclusively available to workers who make 80% or less of the region's median income, with preference given to those in the categories listed above. 

The idea is clearly popular. Five of the nine lots are already spoken for as of April 22, and both South Jordan and Ivory Homes representatives are confident that the remaining four will sell quickly. Officials from both entities have confirmed that further workforce housing partnerships between South Jordan and Ivory Homes are already in the works. 

Of course, because the market is so hot, and the lots are so subsidized, the workforce homes are deed restricted to prevent homebuyers from abusing the system and flipping the houses.

"What we didn't want to do is have somebody buy one and then just turn around sell it and, you know, make $100,000 immediately. That wouldn't be a wise use of taxpayer money," said Brian Preece, South Jordan's Director of Commerce. "So there'll be the deed restriction, so that when they sell the home, the longer they live in it, the more they can earn. But it will still have to be sold to someone else that meets those same income requirements."

Even subsidized, the townhomes are still far from cheap. Homes in Bingham Court start at $480,000, so even with the $100,000 subsidy, buyers are still on the hook for $380,000. But for a home in South Jordan, that's as good as it gets in this market.  

Ivory Homes has done a lot of work in affordable workforce housing before, but trying to build something affordable in such a desirable location—not only in a popular part of the insanely fast-growing Salt Lake County, but also along a main transportation corridor—presented a unique challenge.  

"The bulk of our workforce housing program has been, 'Let's see if we can build the most affordable home on the most affordable lot,’” said Kevin Carlson, who leads Ivory Homes' workforce housing program. “When you get into South Jordan, you know, we're not really in the outskirts anymore, like a lot of our affordable product out in Eagle Mountain or Stansbury Park or some of these areas. In South Jordan, it's really tough." 

"To pull that off in a city like South Jordan, that's right in the heart of Salt Lake County, it's really taken a lot of outside the box thinking, and South Jordan has been great at contributing to that," said Michael Parker, Ivory Homes' vice president of public affairs. "They have been in the game the whole time, pushing us to move quicker, think bigger."

According to Parker, a lot of rezoning and general plan updates were necessary to make this project work, but South Jordan officials in general and Mayor Dawn Ramsey in particular were proactive about making the necessary changes. Parker looks forward to working with city officials on more developments like this one in the future.

"To have a city that's that proactive about solving this problem is a big game changer, because oftentimes, we feel like we're pushing or pulling a city along with us,” Parker said. “South Jordan, to their credit, and the mayor, to her credit, have been true partners and leaders. They really led efforts on the general plan and zoning update to allow for the density that's on the site. And they worked with us to talk with the proximate neighbors to make sure we did that in a way that blends into the neighborhood in a really strategic way."  

Even though the price tag is still a little daunting, the $100,000 subsidies have put home ownership within reach for people that otherwise would have had to wait a very long time to have a place of their own. Joshua Timothy, who works as a city communications specialist, is one such person.

"Buying a workforce home at a subsidized rate is a huge blessing to our family,” he said. “We would not be able to buy a home for our growing family for many more years without the program that Ivory Homes and the city has put into place. Being able to live, play and work in the same community is something that we have always wanted for our children." 

According to Timothy, it's not just the monetary help that put this home within reach for his family. The simple fact that the home was reserved for workforce members removed a lot of uncertainty all on its own. 

"Every home on the market has probably around 10 to 100 interested buyers,” he said. “First-time homebuyers will often get bid out by others that make cash offers well above asking price. Buying a subsidized workforce home is often still competitive with waitlists, but it is a lot less stressful than other homes on the market. We didn’t have to worry about someone coming in with cash and making a larger offer."

It seems evident that workforce housing is an important and worthy place for South Jordan to put its redevelopment funds. In an economy where house prices rise faster than workers can save for them, becoming a homeowner often seems like an impossible dream. The idea behind Bingham Court and developments like it brings that dream a little closer to reality.

"It really does help us and our families,” Timothy said. “It’s a great investment for the city, school districts and other essential worker employers to have employees that live close by, dedicated to serve the communities in which they live."