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LoanDepot CEO Hammers For Habitat for Humanity

On a Wednesday morning in July, about two weeks before Irvine-based loanDepot Inc. was scheduled to announce its second-quarter earnings, Chief Executive Frank Martell could be found pounding nails on a new house.

He was among 15 other loanDepot employees constructing two new homes in Santa Ana for Habitat for Humanity of Orange County.

“I think Habitat is the perfect intersection for what we do, which is put people into homes and try to keep them there,” Martell told the Business Journal while taking a break.

“Habitat is all about affordable homes, and we’re trying to do affordable loans.”

Irvine-based loanDepot (NYSE: LDI) is one of the country’s largest non-bank mortgage lenders, but is facing one of the most tumultuous times in the mortgage industry. Rapidly rising interest rates have caused a drop in both mortgages and refinancings for the company and the industry at large.

The company, which has laid off around 6,800 employees, or about 60% of its workforce from its peak, is expected to generate $1 billion in sales this year, or about a fourth of what it did in 2020.

Unlimited Possibilities

Despite the industry turmoil, the company is expanding its volunteer work.

This year, Martell introduced a new program where its employees, which includes about 1,000 in Orange County, are paid to spend 16 hours to volunteer at local organizations that they are passionate about.

It’s working closely with the foundation of Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins, who play in that city’s loanDepot Park, to both create and sustain little league teams at the Boys & Girls Clubs in the area.

In Orange County, loanDepot also supports Unlimited Possibilities, previously known as United Cerebral Palsy of OC. A loanDepot team is particularly passionate about supporting it because one of their teammates has a son with the illness and they’ve seen firsthand the result of this organization’s work as the young boy grew and thrived.

It’s also supporting the American Red Cross’ Go Red for Woman campaign.

The company doesn’t have its own corporate foundation, which is why it’s not on the Business Journal’s annual list, which is part of this week’s OC Philanthropy supplement, which is included with this edition.

War Heroes

One of the most prominent local charitable works that loanDepot supports is War Heroes on Water (WHOH), which founder and chairman Anthony Hsieh, an immigrant from Taiwan, began in 2018 to support wounded war veterans.

The event, held in conjunction with its charitable partner, the Freedom Alliance, typically starts with a boat parade in Newport Beach and then heads towards Catalina Island.

“Each year, WHOW changes the lives of veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country,” Hsieh said in a statement.

“The connections our heroes make with each other—as well as the fleet captains and crews and the entire WHOW community—form a lifelong support system and allow them to heal on the open ocean while having the adventure of a lifetime.”

The tournament, which calls itself the nation’s largest non-profit sportfishing tournament, has directly benefitted 300 veterans and has raised $5 million to date.

It’s entering its sixth year, scheduled for Sept. 22-26, with about 125 veterans onboard “50 of the best sportfishing vessels on the west coast for three days of world-class angling,” the tournament said in a statement.

Habitat Homes

The Orange County chapter of Habitat for Humanity reported $12.7 million in revenue for the year ended June 30, 2022, ranking it No. 45 on the Business Journal’s annual list of the area’s biggest nonprofits.

The nonprofit has attracted the support of companies like Antis Roofing & Waterproofing, Banc of California and Parker Aerospace.

In prior years, many of loanDepot’s retail teams were already supporting their local Habitat affiliates. Also, loanDepot board member Pamela Patenaude is on Habitat for Humanity International’s Board of Directors.

The company plans to be a major partner of Habitat for Humanity’s advocacy campaign this coming spring, called “Home is the Key.”

Nail Pounder

At the Santa Ana site in July, Martell was spending his time helping to construct two homes running about 1,200 square feet each, which replaced a condemned apartment complex.

Since the homes are in Santa Ana’s French Park Historic District, a 20-square block residential area, city officials required they be built in the original style that existed around 1902 to 1920.

While neighboring homes are in the million-dollar range, owners of these new homes will be charged a mortgage based on their family income.

Martell, the former head of another local real estate company, Irvine-based data and research firm CoreLogic, said he didn’t have much experience in construction, and was learning how to install baseboards in the kitchen.

“I think it’s important to lead by example,” he said. “If I’m not willing to take time, it’s hard to ask other people to do it.

“It demonstrates that every level of the organization is engaged. I’d never ask people to do what I’m not prepared to do myself. I have a passion for affordable housing and trying to build communities. This is ground zero.”

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