Brett and MaryAlice Hawkins arrived in Los Alamos, N.M., from Vermont via Papua New Guinea after a two-year stint in the Peace Corps. Both teachers, they qualified for special financing at Pi-on Trails, a mixed-income subdivision with an affordable component developed by the Los Alamos Housing Partnership.
As the parents of a little girl they adopted from China, the Hawkins' liked the cultural diversity of Los Alamos, which draws people from around the world to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory. "Just in the neighborhood, there are people from all over Asia, Russians, Hispanic people," MaryAlice says. "We really wanted that for our daughter. We could never afford to live [in Los Alamos] on a teacher's salary."
Since they moved into their home, Brett has changed jobs and now works at the lab, supervising security guards; MaryAlice stays home with their daughter and baby boy, and is working toward an advanced degree. "We wouldn't be able to live on one salary if we weren't in an affordable home," she says.
The Hawkins love the large number of families with young children, and the fact that the neighborhood is within walking distance of five parks, the library, the grocery store, the doctor's office, and the Rio Grande.
At $265,000, their two-story, three-bedroom, three-bath home was priced well below market rate for Los Alamos, where land is in limited supply because most of it is under federal, state, or tribal control and housing prices are driven by the salaries of the highly paid scientists who work at the lab.
Like many mixed-income communities, the affordable homes in Pi-on Trails carry a soft second mortgage as a subsidy to reduce the payments. A soft second allows the lender to split the mortgage between two loans. The second normally is for 20 percent of the total loan and is often subsidized by a governmental agency. They're often interest-only payments for 10 years or forgivable after a certain amount of time. They keep the payment affordable and keep the buyer from quickly flipping the house for a profit. If the Hawkins' sell their house, they'll have to repay both loans. Their house payment is $1,000 a month. "Isn't that awesome?" MaryAlice says. "You can't rent for that around here."