A home in their hometown: Special down payment program for santa fe teachers allows family to live in the community they love

Santa Fe has always been home for Cassandra and her husband Richard. Both were born and raised here, and they have cultivated close community ties over the years through their jobs, their volunteer work, and other activities. 

Cassandra, a special education math teacher at Capital High School, always dreamed of owning a home one day, but as homes became more and more expensive, she began to wonder if it would be possible. “We were really hoping to stay in Santa Fe,” she said, “but we thought we might have to move to Rio Rancho to find a home we could afford.” 

Cassandra and Richard first came to Homewise in 2021. They realized they would need to get in better financial shape before purchasing a home, so they took the next year to work on improving their credit and building their savings. “It was really hard work,” admits Richard, “but now that we have accomplished our goals, it just feels so good!” In addition, their rent payments were going up substantially each year, and they were outgrowing their apartment. “We thought why not pay a few hundred more each month on a mortgage and own our own place?”

When they came back to Homewise, they were ready to start looking for a home and worked with Gloria, a Homewise Realtor®. “I was very nervous,” shared Cassandra. “I wasn’t sure if we would be able to find a home that met our needs within our price range.” However, Gloria let them know that they qualified for a special down payment assistance program for Santa Fe public school teachers called the Jing Lyman Educator Fund. They also received additional down payment assistance from the City of Santa Fe.

Not long after, Gloria called Cassandra and told her about a home that had just come on the market in Cielo Azul, a quiet neighborhood close to several parks on the south side of the city. In addition to having four bedrooms to accommodate their family of five (which includes an older son, a teen daughter, and a toddler), the home also has a sweet back yard and is close to both their jobs. The family immediately knew this was the house.

“I’m so glad that we were able to find the right home and keep them in Santa Fe where they are such a big part of the community,” expressed Gloria. “I know they were discouraged when we first started looking, but they stayed curious about the possibilities and never gave up.”

Once they put an offer in, the process went surprisingly fast. “We feel so fortunate,” said Cassandra. “The down payment money made homeownership in Santa Fe affordable for us.” Richard added that working with their Homewise team, finding the house, and receiving down payment assistance was inspiring. “It’s a beautiful thing the way it all came together.”

Cassandra and Richard bought their home last fall and are loving the air conditioning now that the summer heat is in full force. They were pleasantly surprised to discover that the utility bills are less than what they were paying while at the apartment. The family enjoys the quiet and relaxed atmosphere of the neighborhood, and the kids really love having their own rooms. Even little Skippy, the family dog, is happy to have his own backyard to hang out in.

“I’m very proud to be a homeowner in Santa Fe!” beams Cassandra. Her advice for other educators who may feel discouraged about the high price of homes is to “just get in there and do it!” Gloria agrees, stating “You’ll never know if you don’t at least try. Cassandra and Richard trusted us, and we were able to help them become homeowners.”

With the stability and peace of mind that owning a home brings, Cassandra and Richard can focus more than ever on strengthening their ties to the community. Cassandra, who in addition to teaching at Capital High School also graduated from there, loves to get to know her students and build relationships with them. Richard works at The Life Link, a local nonprofit that provides services to those experiencing homelessness or behavioral health challenges, and is also a basketball coach at Capital. They are both involved with the annual Zozobra event, as well as other charitable endeavors. “We definitely believe in giving back to the community,” Richard stresses, and for the foreseeable future, they can look forward to making their hometown a better place to live.

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