-by Justin Hill – Daily Herald
SALEM – Brad Bishop sits before a giant puzzle. Arranged before him are the pieces: grant money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury and funds from private financial institutions. Bishop, executive director of the Rural Housing Development Corp. of Provo, is putting this puzzle together piece by piece, and when he is finished with the project, his agency will build more homes in more places for more people–people like Tamara Wasden. “It gives us an opportunity we wouldn’t otherwise have,” said Wasden, who is living with her husband, David, and their three children in her parents’ Spring Lake home. Wasden figured that Bishop’s agency was the only way her children, ages 9, 6 and 2 could get their own rooms, so her family is building a home in Payson through the organization. A group of families like the Wasdens are working to build each others homes with the help of a supervisor hired by the Rural Housing Development Corp., which also arranged loans for those families. With the pieces to his puzzle all in place, Bishop’s nonprofit organization, which helps families who make less than 80 percent of the area’s median income become homeowners through inexpensive loans, will expand into Wasatch and Summit counties and add urban locations to his agency’s focus. The organization is looking for land in Orem to expand to urban places. Bishop has one of his pieces in place after HUD approved $150,000 in September for his organization, the agency in Utah to receive such a grant. The money will be used to cover administrative costs as Bishop prepares to expand the agency. Bishop’s organization also has applied to the Treasury Department to become a community development financial institution and for capital funds so the agency can contribute to the loans its clients receive from the private and public sectors. With 42 percent of Utah Valley residents able to qualify for his program, there is a need, and the agency wants to help more people, Bishop said. The organization’s move to urban areas fills a niche, said Gene Carly, executive director of the Housing Authority of Utah County, the agency that created Rural Housing Development Corp.. Bishop’s organization has taken at least three families off the Housing Authority’s rental assistance program and turned them into homeowners. Carly anticipates with the Rural Housing Development Corp.’s move to urban areas, people on the waiting list for rental assistance programs, which now stands in the low 700s, will sign up with Bishop’s program. “I think it’s a great thing,” Carly said. “I think there’s a need there.” As a nonprofit organization, the Rural Housing Development Corp. has access to funding that the Housing Authority can’t get as a government entity, Carly said. For instance, 15 percent of federal HOME funds is earmarked for nonprofit groups, he said. In the past five years, Bishop’s organization has built 40 homes, with another 20 under construction right now. Six to 10 families are grouped together, building each other’s homes over an eight-to 10-month period. One of two supervisors watches over the project as the families work on the framing, install roofing trusses and exterior stonework. The supervisor also oversees all the subcontractors. To qualify, families must make less than 80 percent of the area’s median income, or $40,300 for a family of four. The homes are built in areas designated as rural in the 2000 census. “It doesn’t take much” to qualify for his program, Bishop said. “That’s your teachers your government workers, police officers.” To fund the homes, private organizations and the federal Department of Agriculture give the families a loan. Payments to the federal government are based on income and could be as low as 1 percent. Payments to private lenders are fixed. But with money from the Treasury Department, Bishop hopes to create a loan pool. Although the money will go quickly, the organization will be able to contribute to the money given by the private and public sectors and leverage those loans to reduce the families’ overall payments. Bishop also is working with the state and FannieMae to create a loan pool. “We’re trying to be creative and blend those different funding sources,” Bishop said.