Q&A with Mike Loftin, executive director of Homewise, inc.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE • OCTOBER 2007
MIKE LOFTIN has been the executive director of Homewise, Inc., in Santa Fe, N.M., since 1992. Founded in 1986, the nonprofit organization has helped more than 1,600 people purchase their homes and more than 800 people keep their homes by providing financial and technical assistance for home repair.
Homewise also has trained and counseled more than 4,500 people toward homeownership. The organization is also a developer that has built more than 300 affordable homes.
Loftin was named 2007 practitioner of the year by the National NeighborWorks Association, the trade association of NeighborWorks organizations. He also serves on the board of the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority, the state housing finance agency.
Q Why are you in the affordable housing business?
A By accident. I had a professor at Northwestern, John McKnight, who got me interested in how to revitalize disinvested communities. I became a community organizer and kept bumping into housing issues. What I learned is that if people won’t or can’t buy a home in a community, that community is going to have problems. I have been fascinated about how to create healthy housing markets ever since.
Q What has been the biggest challenge for Homewise this year, and how are you meeting that challenge?
A Raising enough capital to fund our “super-prime” mortgage product. We believe that if people are willing to play by the rules—save money, reduce debt, make payments on time, be a good credit risk— they should benefit from the most attractive financing. We have created a “super-prime” mortgage that accomplishes this, but have a capital gap in funding these mortgages. We are currently in discussions with several investors to raise the needed capital.
Q What’s the best move that Homewise has made this year?
A The best move has been our actual move…into our new building. After many years of preaching homeownership, we are finally practicing homeownership. I always had a pretty nice office in our other buildings but I guess some of my staff were tired of having their desks in the hallways and using a garage as a conference room.
Q Describe the affordable housing situation in Santa Fe.
A The median price of a home is well over $400,000. While you would be hard pressed to find a home priced below $200,000, if you were in the market for a home with a price tag over a million, you’d have over 300 homes to choose from.
Q Tell us about a recent family that your organization has helped.
A Last year, we helped over 200 families purchase homes. One was a teacher and a single mother who was planning on leaving Santa Fe but decided to stay when she found out she really could own a home here. Given our high housing costs and the low wages of teachers, every teacher that stays teaching here helps our schools.
Q In addition to helping people buy their own homes, Homewise is also a developer. What are you building?
A A little something for everyone. We have small townhomes with patios and carports on up to four-bedroom detached homes with big yards and a two-car garage, and everything in between. We have sites in different areas throughout the city, and we’re always trying to provide more diversity of choice to our customers. The consistent theme is highquality construction standards that pay special attention to energy- and water-saving measures. We want our customers to continue saving money on a Homewise home even after they close and move in.
Q Where would we find you when you are not working?
A Trying to help my kids with math problems I haven’t even thought about for the last 25 years. Digging weeds in my garden. Meandering through the forest looking for edible mushrooms.
Q What’s your favorite place in Santa Fe?
A The Sangre de Cristo mountains east of Santa Fe.
Q What’s the best business advice that you have received?
A When someone begins a statement with “It’s not about the money …,” it’s about the money.
Q Who’s your hero and why?
A Martin Luther King. He taught us that we can effectively confront those who inflict harm on others without dehumanizing them or ourselves.
Q If you weren’t working in affordable housing, what would you be doing?
A Meandering through the forest looking for edible mushrooms. Or teaching high school.
Q What’s something people don’t know about you?
A That I love watching American Idol. Actually, it’s my secret weapon. I’ve turned around more than one contentious meeting by finding out that the other person shares my admiration for Melinda Doolittle or my confusion over Sanjaya’s hair.
Q What’s next for you and Homewise?
A Launching the Homewise Community Investment Fund, which will make it easy for Santa Fe residents to invest in helping working Santa Feans own a home in their hometown.