Utah’s largest homebuilder marks 20,000th home milestone with new green initiatives

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Clark Ivory, Ivory Homes CEO, Utah's leading homebuilder, marked construction of the company’s 20,000th home on Thursday by announcing a series of company initiatives to make housing more green and affordable.

After building 20,000 homes in 31 years, you’d think Ivory Homes would have settled on its approach.

But as Utah’s largest homebuilder marked the construction milestone Thursday with a celebration for Ivory Homes’ employees, its CEO promised new strategies to make future dwellings more affordable, energy efficient and kinder to the environment.

“We understand that if we do our job right," Clark Ivory said, “we will create neighborhoods and communities that will appreciate in value and be sustainable over the long term.”

Ivory said the Murray-based company would double the number of homes it is setting aside for workforce housing, expanding to 200 newly built dwellings per year reserved at affordable prices for purchase by teachers, nurses, veterans, police officers, first-time buyers and those working in Utah’s construction trades.

Announced in February, the company’s initial workforce housing set-asides centered in Utah County will now be available in Salt Lake and Weber counties, with homes in Magna and West Haven, a company spokesman said.

And while other homebuilders and some Utah cities have similar initiatives to get workers into homes, Ivory Homes is notable as an industry influencer as it continues to focus on several housing affordability and green issues in residential construction.

Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, called Ivory Homes’ 20,000 home milestone “a remarkable achievement.” He said the company has been pivotal in working with business leaders to address Utah’s housing shortage.

Population growth continues to strain Utah’s housing supplies, driving up prices and rents even as thousands of new dwellings come on line. By leading economic estimates, the state is thought to lack more than 40,000 single-family homes and rental units affordable to households earning at or below the region’s average incomes.

“This situation affects all of us, every industry, every profession, every individual and, of course, our employees,” Miller said. “It will also affect our children and our grandchildren.”

Gov. Gary Herbert encouraged other builders to follow Ivory Homes’ lead, saying the company’s efforts over the decades had helped deliver the benefits of owning a home to enough families to fill communities such as Layton or St. George.

“I’m a big believer in homeownership and that people ought to be buying instead of renting,” said Herbert, a former real estate broker and developer.

Roughly 70% of Utahns own their homes as opposed to renting, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That ratio currently stands far lower at 44.7% for Salt Lake City, with 55.3% of residents renting their home.

Utah’s overall share of owner-occupied households, Herbert noted, remains high compared to other U.S. states and the country as a whole, which currently stands at about 64.8% homeowners.

In addition to making neighborhoods more stable, boosting community involvement and helping owners accumulate wealth, the Republican governor said, “private real estate ownership is the foundation for freedom and liberty in our country.”

Ivory Homes also announced plans Thursday to equip all its future homes with garage outlets suitable for electric-vehicle charging stations beginning next year. Homebuyers also can get a discount on charging station installation fees through a new partnership with Rocky Mountain Power called "EV-Ready Homes.”

In a statement, a representative from the Utah Clean Air Partnership praised the program as a “practical solution” aimed at improving the state’s air quality by helping to put a greater number of less-polluting electric cars on the road.

Ivory Homes is partway into a campaign to plant 30,000 trees statewide as part of a separate clean-air initiative.

The homebuilder is raising the average energy-efficiency standard for its homes, Ivory said. The company also said it will make water-wise landscaping a standard feature for its new construction, with the potential to slash water usage for an average home by two-thirds.