For this week's blog post, we have interviewed Bobby Calvillo, Executive Director of Affordable Homes of South Texas, Inc. (AHSTI). AHSTI is a nonprofit homeownership organization dedicated to improving substandard housing conditions in South Texas and helping prospective home buyers achieve their dream of homeownership at a price they can afford.
An active partner in TSAHC's Affordable Communities of Texas (ACT) land banking program, to date AHSTI has sold nearly 20 homes to deserving South Texas families as part of the program.
Bobby has served as AHSTI's Executive Director for 20 years, and much of the organization's success can be directly attributed to his vision and leadership. Below is our interview with Bobby to help you get to know him and his organization a little better.
1. Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in the affordable housing industry.
I was born and raised in the great city of Weslaco, Texas. I spent 14 years as a banker at a local savings and loan that took me to San Antonio for a few years before returning to the Rio Grande Valley. One of my responsibilities at the bank was CRA and it was actually fun to work on deals with some of my affordable housing partners. Fred Huerta with the Harlingen CDC was one of those guys. He indicated to me that it might be a good idea if I wanted a change to look at the Executive Director job at AHSTI (then called McAllen Affordable Homes). I had heard about the group but hadn’t worked with them. Thanks to Fred and a couple of other friends, 20 years later I’m still here and still having fun.
2. Affordable Homes of South Texas is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, how has the organization grown over the years?
It all started with local community leaders who wanted to do something about the horrible living conditions that some families in McAllen were facing. They started an initiative in 1976 with a goal of raising $100,000. The idea was to lend the money to a family to make their home repairs and use the repaid funds to assist even more families. Forty years later, that original $100,000 initiative is now an organization with nearly $80 million in assets, 65 employees and a $50 million loan portfolio. Most importantly over 4,000 families are now living in safe decent and affordable homes…thanks to the efforts of our founders.
3. What special events or programs are you planning in honor of AHSTI’s 40th anniversary?
With the theme “a 40 year legacy and it’s only the beginning” we will be conducting various activities during the year, all focused on the families we are serving. We hope to break ground soon on a training house. The house will serve as a learning lab where homeowners are taught basic home repair skills from simple plumbing repairs to patching sheetrock and replacing door knobs.
We also will thank our current homeowners by randomly selecting 12 families to receive a mortgage-free month. One lucky family will even receive a year of mortgage payments – compliments of our various supporters and sponsors.
Other activities are also being planned. One of my favorite activities is the Presidents’ Council. We have gathered all of the living Board Presidents and held an inaugural meeting. We plan to ask them to continue to support and guide our organization as they did prior to their retirement from our board. The stories they tell are inspiring.
4. What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
If I had to pick one activity or service, it would be our annual Home Buyer Fair event. We are in the final planning stages of our 18th annual fair, which will take place on Saturday, June 11th. It is a community-wide event where prospective homebuyers can meet with lenders, builders, title companies, REALTORS®, etc…all under one roof.
The most unique feature of our home buyer fair is the classroom instruction that happens during the event. We offer classes covering several important elements of the home buying process, including the importance of credit, how to qualify for a mortgage, what to look for in a builder, how a REALTOR® can help, etc. And it is all made possible by our amazing sponsors, many of whom have been supporting this event for the last 18 years.
5. Who is your professional role model and why?
I have several. During my banking career I admired the individuals who saw something in a little kid from the Valley and nurtured the “ganas” that he apparently showed. They include Bruce Koller, then President of Magic Valley Savings; Jim DeLoach, President of San Antonio Federal Savings Bank; and Richard Dalton, President of River Valley Bank.
Others from my career at AHSTI include Randy McLelland, the Board President who took a chance on me; Alonzo Cantu who told me to ‘give it a shot’; my dear departed friend Joe Saenz; and my colleagues Fred Huerta and Nick Ramon who knew me when I was a lowly banker and continue to show me how CDC work is supposed to be done.
6. And finally, what do you wish people knew about the affordable housing industry that is a big misconception?
Having fought my share of "not in my back yard" (NIMBY) battles, I think the misconception that bothers me the most is the notion that “affordable” means “cheap” in quality. I am proud every time I drive by one of our subdivisions and see the pride of ownership that our families exhibit. We work hard to make sure that we are providing our families with a home that will be here for at least another 40 years.
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