Our help. Your Home.

About Us Staff

Peter Werwath
Executive Director

Peter Werwath is a community development consultant who, starting in 1992, helped start up the Housing Trust, Tierra Contenta Corporation, and other affordable housing programs and projects in Santa Fe. Working nationwide since the 1980s, he has helped a number of local governments and nonprofits create, finance, and implement plans to build diverse, mixed-income communities and rebuild distressed neighborhoods, resulting in the construction of over 15,000 homes and apartments. He designed and helped launch inclusionary affordable housing ordinances in Santa Fe; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Durango, Colorado.

As a vice president and in other positions at the Maryland-based Enterprise Community Partners (ECP), Peter wrote the initial version of the Green Communities construction standards and created online “how-to” databases with advice and model documents for implementing various aspects of housing development. He started up and supervised ECP’s Rehab Work Group, training programs, a resident services initiative, Hurricane Katrina rebuilding efforts, the Green Communities program, the Rose Architectural Fellowship, and other nationwide community development programs. Peter has served as an adjunct faculty member of the Affordable Housing Institute of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and is the author of a number of books, articles and training materials on affordable housing development and nonprofit management.

Denise Benavidez
Deputy Director

Denise started with the Housing Trust in August of 2016. She brings over 35 years of banking, compliance, documentation and operational experience.  Previous to the Housing Trust, she worked for Valley National Bank as Vice President Credit Administrator, Loan Operation Manager and Security Officer, Century Bank Vice President Quality Control Documentation Manager in addition to many other roles and titles.  She was born and raised in beautiful Northern New Mexico and is excited to work together with the counseling team to fulfill the Home Ownership Dreams of all clients.

Joyce Arellano
Program Manager, HOPWA and Shelter Plus Care/Housing Counselor

Joyce was born and raised in Santa Fe. Previously, she worked with the Special Needs Housing Programs and as a Housing Counselor for six years at the Housing Trust. She re-joined The Housing Trust in January of 2012. She is a Certified HQS Inspector and the first of only two people to be certified in HOPWA Management in New Mexico. She has twenty plus years of experience in the real estate title business and her knowledge as a Title Examiner and Researcher is an asset to the organization and our clients. Joyce enjoys camping and spending time with family, friends and her dog.

Ron Chavez
Housing, HECM and Post-Purchase Counselor

Ron has over seven years experience as a housing counselor with the Housing Trust, and eleven years in the field. With over eighteen years of total lending experience, he offers expert advice for potential homeowners. Ron is also an AARP Certified Reverse Mortgage Counselor to assist seniors, and manages the Home Buyer Training program.

Maria Ortiz
Certified Housing Counselor and Trainer

Maria has been a Housing Counselor at the Housing Trust since 2006. Maria grew up in a small town in Northern Texas. She moved to Santa Fe in 1994. About eight years ago Maria was a client of the Housing Trust. As a first-time homebuyer, the Housing Trust helped her attain her dream of home ownership. Before working at the Housing Trust, Maria worked for the Santa Fe Public Schools as a bilingual teaching assistant and acquired eight years experience working for Century Bank. When not at work, Maria enjoys dancing and being surrounded by family and friends.


Michael Smith
HOPWA Consultant

Since moving to Santa Fe from New York City in 1992, Michael has been involved with many local and statewide AIDS Service Organizations. Michael was one of the founders of the Northern New Mexico People Living with AIDS Coalition and served as its Executive Director for two years. Michael has also served on the Santa Fe CARES Board of Directors, HIV-Coordinating Council’s Steering Committee, Governor’s AIDS Task Force, and still serves on the Southwest CARE Clinic’s Community Task Force/Advisory Board and AID & Comfort Board of Director. Michael is the author of the Phoenix Rising HIV/AIDS Re-entry Resource Guide that helps individuals with HIV/AIDS to address return to work and re-entry issues and to re-engage in life. In his spare time Michael enjoys traveling and ballroom dance.

James Hicks
Single Family and Land Development

Tierra Contenta Corporation and The Housing Trust have a synergistic relationship formed by the common mission of providing access to affordable housing for Santa Fe residents. The Housing Trust benefits from the expertise offered by Tierra Contenta Corporation’s staff members and the continued provision of affordable building tracts for builders constructing affordably priced homes, including The Housing Trust. The symbiosis of The Housing Trust and the Tierra Contenta Corporation has proven to be instrumental in keeping the largest planned community in Santa Fe alive and able to carry on with its founders’ mission.

Peggy Vasquez
Administrative Assistant

Peggy Vasquez has been an employee of the Housing Trust since 1999. Prior to the Housing Trust she was a Customer Service Relations Manager for BT Housing Inc. and the Administrative Assistant for Tierra Contenta.   Familiar with property development, construction, sales, closing and the lending processes, Peggy handles a variety of tasks including assisting the Development Team, and the revision of files for compliance and documentation. Peggy’s organizational skills and positive, supportive attitude ensures effective customer relations for those looking to purchase a home through the Housing Trust, and plays a key role in the daily success of the Housing Trust and it’s customers.