OGDEN — It's the American dream to be a homeowner. And for a few families in downtown Ogden, that dream became a reality when the Have a Heart Homes Foundation built new homes especially for low-income families. The organization aims to provide affordable homes to families who could otherwise not afford to buy a new home. There are two criteria: The family must meet a certain low-income mark, and it must be affected by a family member with a disability.
Three families moved into a neighborhood of new homes in the past week, and to mark the occasion, the Have a Heart sponsors, the Northern Wasatch Realtors and the Wasatch Association of Homebuilders, celebrated with a key ceremony and old-fashioned barbecue.
Northern Wasatch Realtors began the Have a Heart project 12 years ago, simply renovating older homes in the Ogden area. But in 2000, they partnered with the Wasatch Association of Homebuilders to begin constructing new homes using donated materials and labor. This year marked the organization's most successful year.
"This year is our biggest year ever," said Rick Southwick, president of the Northern Wasatch Realtors. "Typically, we do one home a year."
Last year, four new homes were under construction, and this spring, three of the four have been sold and have new families already moved in. One is the Enriquez family of four, which has been living in Ogden for the past two years. All four are deaf.
Julio and his wife Ana were thrilled to be living in their first home. They were shocked when their real estate agent, Byron Bosshardt, showed them a home still under construction, and they immediately jumped at the opportunity to have a new, three-bedroom home. The excitement of being homeowners swept them up in the thrill of having a master suite and new appliances in their kitchen.
"The way the house is, it's beautiful," Julio said. "We want to treat it very well and keep it as it is."
Ana, signing, chimed in with a big smile on her face.
"I want to grow old here," she said.
Bosshardt grew up with two deaf parents and knew sign language. It was this tie that made helping the Enriquez family so special to him. He said the moment he showed the house to them it was an instant sell. But finding it in the first place wasn't so easy.
"In the price range of under $140,000 in Davis and southern Weber County, there is not a lot," Bosshardt said. "Your tradeoffs are old but maybe fairly well maintained or newer but extremely beat up that need a lot of fixing up."
The Have a Heart homes were originally appraised at $190,000 but sold to families for $138,000, well below the cost of construction. Payments for the Enriquez family were only slightly more than the rent for a place that was falling apart in Layton. Ana said the rental home lacked any decent insulation, and pipes were corroded and constantly dripping throughout the house. The landlord never fixed a thing. Winters were cold. Summers were hot.
But their new home has everything she and her husband wanted. They went from paying $825 in rent to a house payment that is still under $900. Their two daughters, Mindy and Amy, were also happy to be living somewhere new. The biggest thing for 16-year-old Mindy was simple.
"What I love is the stairs," she said. "Every place we've ever lived, we've never had that in our home."
But she's just as excited to have her own room that she can paint and decorate to suit her personality. The sisters will both attend a special school for deaf students in the fall.