Habitat for Humanity’s 19-lot purchase may help revive Oshara Village

The entrance to Oshara Village Thursday September 19, 2013. Clyde Mueller/The New Mexican

More than a dozen home lots that had stood empty while a promised new subdivision went through foreclosure and a bank failure will get a second life with Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity.

The 19 lots were auctioned by Beal Financial of Texas, the lender that assumed ownership of the parcels in the Oshara Village subdivision off Richards Avenue. Habitat paid $400,000, or about $21,000 per lot, said Kim Shanahan, director of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association, who also serves on the Habitat board.

Ted Swisher, Habitat’s executive director, said there is still much work to do to get the sites ready for construction, but the nonprofit plans to start on two or three homes this summer. Habitat has come to an end of its projects in other areas, and the new supply will keep volunteers busy for several years, he said.

“We have a good backlog of families, so this is very exciting,” Swisher said.

The inventory of lots in one location will also help the group as it uses volunteer labor to build homes for those in need. If all its workers can come to the same job site, equipment can be stored and construction will move faster. Families seeking homes are screened and chosen based on need as well as on their willingness to provide sweat equity hours in the construction of their homes or homes’ of others.

The Habitat properties are scattered around Oshara Village, a subdivision approved by Santa Fe County commissioners in 2004 with promises of sustainability and multi-use zoning. Developer Alan Hoffman’s plan called for some 750 residential units — both single and multifamily — as well as 1.3 million square feet of commercial, retail and light-industrial space.

Many single-family lots in the project sold for $40,000 before the recession, but there was little demand for the development’s commercial or multifamily spaces. Hoffman filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Century Bank was the primary lender in Oshara, but Los Alamos National Bank and the former Charter Bank also took back foreclosed lots after housing prices crashed.

The Habitat parcels sold Wednesday were once owned by Charter Bank, which closed on a Friday afternoon in 2010 and was taken over by the Beal Financial Corp. of Plano, Texas.

“This is really a boom for Habitat,” Shanahan said. “It keeps us in business for another three years. We were in a panic running out of lots. We have families stacking up and didn’t know where we’d go next.”

Homewise, a nonprofit that offers homeownership assistance and credit counseling, also owns 40 lots in Oshara, some of them received by donation from Los Alamos National Bank in exchange for a tax credit. Executive Director Mike Loftin said floor plans and pricing of homes will be available this coming summer.

“I think people are over the funk of the bad economy,” Loftin said. “They’re starting to look forward and ready to move.”

Contact Bruce Krasnow at 986-3034 or brucek@sfnewmexican.com.

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