This feature originally appeared in the May issue of MReport.
Suzy Lindblom is the COO for Planet Home Lending. She previously served as the company’s EVP of National Operations. Lindblom helped grow some of the leading brands in the mortgage industry, including Stearns Lending, where she was Managing Director of National Fulfillment and Operations, leading a multibillion dollar, multichannel business. Recognized by the mortgage industry for her efforts and accomplishments, Lindblom serves on the Board of Directors of NEXT, and has been named to the Most Powerful Women in FinTech, Women of Influence, MPA’s 2017 Elite Women, and the National Diversity Council’s Southern California 2016 Most Powerful & Influential Women list.
Lindblom appeared on an episode of DS5: Inside the Industry to discuss remote-working challenges, issues facing lenders, and if up-zoning is the way to solve affordability.
What are some of the issues facing lenders?
There are two major events that mortgage lenders are facing, one definitely is COVID-19 and the other is historically low interest rates. With both of these events there have been issues. The first issue is how do we continue to operate with COVID-19. We, as a company, have moved approximately 90% of the company home. Staying engaged with those employees, making sure they have the tools that they need to work remotely, to stay safe, has been critical. As leaders, making them feel secure, giving them the tools that they need, and making sure they are up to date on all the information has been critical for them.
The second issue is the huge volume that continues to come through refinances and making sure that we can adequately hire to meet that demand. Being remote has made that even harder. Making sure that you can interview the staff, that you can feel comfortable with the staff, getting the equipment that they need, and then training them remotely, and making sure they feel safe and secure.
What are your thoughts on cities and states moving away from single-family zoning?
That’s a very interesting question. I do think, as a country, we need more affordable housing, and watching what some of the states are doing across the nation.
California now allows a three-unit apartment in a previous single-family zoning area as long as they’re within half a mile of public transportation. I think that is critical. It’s going to change how we look at single-family zoning, and we need to adapt to it, but up-zoning, as it’s called, hasn’t always worked. One of the critical things that we need to do is make sure we have the appropriate restrictions. Minneapolis did up-zoning as well, like California did, but they put in criteria that you have to have 10% of the units be affordable housing and meet borrowers with a median income.
I think that’s very critical, and I think you’ll see more cities follow suit on that. The other unique situation—I see it on the west coast more than I see it anywhere else—is accessory dwelling units. Accessory dwelling units could be a garage conversion, a small house behind a house—I think that’s critical to help people be able to afford housing, especially in these high markets like California. I do see a change, and I think we’ll continue to see this change, and I think as an industry we will adapt to this change to help more consumers get into housing.
Follow this link to watch more episodes of DS5: Inside the Industry, to hear insight from industry leaders.