A Columbia-based affordable housing organization will announce today that it is merging a mortgage division with a Cleveland firm and will own a majority of the new company.

Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit founded by Columbia developer James W. Rouse and wife Patty Rouse, is combining its Multifamily Mortgage Finance business with Bellwether Real Estate Capital, which focuses on commercial and apartment lending. Enterprise's for-profit arm, Enterprise Community Investment, will own 65 percent of the new outfit, Bellwether Enterprise Real Estate Capital.

Enterprise is contributing money toward that majority stake but did not disclose how much.

C. Lamar Seats, senior vice president of Enterprise Community Investment, said he expects the move will position the business for growth.

"We're merging two companies with very diverse lending platforms, so there's really no overlap," said Seats, who will serve as chief executive of the new business. "With the merger of the two companies, we have 13 locations across the nation and we will be able to bring our existing clients as well as future clients a much broader array of mortgage products."

The deal, expected to close by June 30, is Enterprise Community Investment's first merger.

Enterprise's multifamily mortgage division employs 26 and Bellwether employs 61. Enterprise anticipates that a few current employees — possibly two — could be laid off.

No employee relocations are planned.

Many lending organizations have struggled since the housing boom busted. But Seats said the apartment sector — particularly the niche affordable to renters with low or moderate incomes — has been "very, very healthy."

jhopkins@baltsun.com

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