Tom Smart, Deseret News
Gov. Gary Herbert gives Veronica Montaya the keys to the state's first foreclosed home purchased with federal stimulus funds.

Standing outside in the bone-chilling cold of a northern Utah December morning, one is easily reminded of how important it is to have a warm place to call home.

It was with that backdrop on Wednesday that the state's top elected official and other housing advocates helped to deliver keys to one of the first homes purchased with federal stimulus funding that will be part of a statewide effort to create more affordable housing for low-income families.

This year, Utah was awarded $19.6 million by Congress for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. That money will be managed by the Utah Center for Affordable Housing, a nonprofit clearinghouse created to effectively leverage the state's housing stimulus funds.

"Housing ownership is part of the American dream," Gov. Gary Herbert said to the audience of about 40 people in attendance in Salt Lake City's Glendale neighborhood. "Having a job, having food (and) having a roof over our head are part of those things that we all look for."

He said that the economy has made finding affordable housing opportunities more difficult for working families, and this program can mitigate that issue for many deserving Utahns.

"Helping people buy a home to raise (a) family has got to be a number one issue and concern…in our communities, cities and across the state."

The center is charged with maximizing the impact of the stimulus funds over the next five years, according to executive director Dan Peterson.

He noted that his organization has already targeted more than 60 homes to be purchased in the near term, with the potential to leverage and buy hundreds more over the next few years.

Following intial acquisition, the properties will be sold to nonprofit housing agencies around the state that will renovate the homes before matching them with qualified low- and very low-income families for final purchase. The money will then be re-used to buy more houses for more families.

"We are taking these funds … and the idea is to recycle these funds over and over," Peterson told the Deseret News.

"As long as we're able to do this, we will."