Affordable housing in Santa Fe and affordable living in general got a $10 million injection this week — with ambitions to leverage that into tens of millions more.
Anchorum St. Vincent — the 50 percent owner of Christus St. Vincent — and Enterprise Bank & Trust, have committed $10 million into a new Community Catalyst Fund, the architects of which believe can help turn the corner on affordable housing — seen by many as one of Santa Fe’s most chronic and difficult-to-solve problems.
Affordable housing builder and financer Homewise can draw on the fund for acquisition, rehabilitation and redevelopment of residential and commercial properties in the Santa Fe region.
In announcing the fund Friday, Anchorum, Enterprise and Homewise openly invited businesses, foundations, organizations, banks and individuals to also invest in the fund.
“I could see it be $20 million, $30 million, $40 million,” said Dion Silva, Enterprise Bank’s president for the Santa Fe region.
“We’re looking to triple or quadruple that money by finding some like-minded organizations,” said Anchorum CEO Peter Bastone. “It could be a national foundation.”
The goal, Silva, Bastone and Homewise CEO Mike Loftin said, is to ease the chronic housing affordability crisis that drives many, even relatively well-paid people, to commute from Albuquerque and Rio Rancho.
“We’re trying to kick it to the next level,” Loftin said. “The first thing you do is get people to not move away from Santa Fe.”
Homewise will use a share of the fund to issue more home loans for modest-income households. The nonprofit typically finances more than 400 home loans per year to modest-income households.
Some of the fund will also be used to build or acquire more affordable housing. Homewise builds about 50 affordable homes per year, but Loftin said the fund will enable the organization to potentially build 100 or more homes a year.
The fund also could be used for commercial projects, even to convert commercial property such as strip malls and hotels into affordable housing. Loftin said he is in discussions to finance two restaurants that would have co-working space above
“The fund is flexible,” Loftin said. “We can adapt to needs. We can employ money in different uses.”
Loftin acknowledged having $10 million available is a huge cushion for Homewise.
“[Usually,] if we get $1 million, we’re happy,” Loftin said.
Bastone said Anchorum’s $5 million share was the largest the organization has committed to a single fund. Enterprise Bank’s $5 million also is one of the largest investments of this type the St. Louis-based institution has made in its history, Silva said.
“Our mindset is we’re not going to be a healthy, sustainable organization if we don’t have a healthy, sustainable community,” said Silva, who was with Los Alamos National Bank for many years before a 2019 merger with Enterprise. “We found a partner that agrees with that. We have a partner that has the resources to make a big splash.”
“We know there is a lot of need out there, but we can’t do it on our own,” Bastone said, noting the partnership with Enterprise.
The fund will issue long-term, low-interest loans to Homewise so the organization can lend to prospective homeowners and build affordable housing.
Homewise is the largest of New Mexico’s 17 Community Development Financial Institutions, which are designed to increase the availability of financing, credit and investment capital in distressed urban and rural communities.
“This fund will increase affordable housing options and the availability of commercial, mixed-use and community spaces to support the communities we serve,” Loftin said. “It will also help community members with down payment assistance, home maintenance and improve communitywide financial literacy.”
As much as affordable housing is the core purpose of the fund, it also hopes to address issues Enterprise Bank considers vital: education, housing, economic development, health and human services, and social services.
“The goals and actions of the Community Catalyst Fund touch all five of these pillars, and we’ve found like-minded partners in Anchorum and Homewise,” Silva said.
City Councilor JoAnn Vigil Coppler said a $10 million commitment will help improve the affordable housing situation, but she had questions about what will be achieved through the fund.
“Is this going to price out everybody else working on affordable housing?” she asked. “There’s a lot more questions I have about it. I’d be real interested to know what their game plan is. Is it strictly going to be used for affordable housing or will it be coupled with the other things Homewise does?”