Steve Spain Retiring From Cape Fear Habitat This Spring

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Feb 9, 2021
Steve Spain, the executive director of Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity, will retire in April. (File photo)
Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Steve Spain is set to retire this spring, after eight years with the Wilmington-based nonprofit organization, according to a news release.

Spain, who plans to retire in April, will be succeeded by Lauren McKenzie, the current director of finance and operations at Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity, officials said.

Spain began his role as executive director of the nonprofit in January 2013, managing the organization’s efforts to grow its mission, and helping families in the Wilmington area find shelter and affordable housing.

Cape Fear Habitat builds affordable homes that are then sold to qualifying, low- and  middle-income families with an affordable mortgage that is no more than 30% of their monthly incomes, stated the release.

Spain said Tuesday that he would like to be remembered most for the role he played in what Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity has been able to do in building wealth in communities that traditionally have not had the opportunity to achieve financial security through homeownership.

“One reason I can retire is that I've been a homeowner. And I've been able to accumulate some wealth to allow me to retire through homeownership,” Spain said. “And that's what habitat has been able to do for 250 families in our area over 30 years of Cape Fear Habitat. And we've built about $7 million in equity wealth through the houses we have built.”

About half of that equity wealth has been built over the past eight years. That's because the organization is building more homes than it has in the past, Spain said.

"In 2013, the organization was building eight to 10 new homes per year. Through Spain’s leadership, Cape Fear Habitat has doubled their closings and the number of families assisted, and is on pace to close 20 homes in this fiscal year,” officials said the release.

Spain also led the Cape Fear Habitat team to focus work on home rehabs and rebuilds that were needed after Hurricane Florence in September 2018, officials said.

“And during the COVID-19 pandemic, he continues to lead his team to build and provide affordable homes, all while changing the way volunteers are being used, how donations are being obtained, and how the homeownership and construction process occurs to keep everyone safe,” said David Parks, Cape Fear Habitat’s board president, in the release.

In addition, Spain has lead the development of Blendin Meadows, a 10-acre subdivision with 27 new, affordable homes.

His vision has also sparked the relocation of the administrative, construction, and ReStore management teams to a new facility, as well as adding two additional ReStore locations, and the nonrpofit's expansion into Pender County.

Spain has worked on affordable housing advocacy efforts at the local and state level.

He has been a part of the Cape Fear Housing Coalition; the Emergency Food & Shelter Program; the University of North Carolina Wilmington's Quality Enhancement for Nonprofits; the 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness in the Cape Fear Region; and the city of Wilmington and New Hanover County Workforce Housing Advisory Committee. 

He has also served as the board chair for Habitat for Humanity of North Carolina, stated the release.

“It has been an incredible privilege to work with our dedicated and passionate staff over the years, who truly care and want to improve the lives of our neighbors,” Spain said in the release. “I have complete confidence that this talented and resilient team will carry on Habitat’s mission and continue growing our organization to meet the needs of local families."

Before working at Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity, Spain worked for eight years with Wilmington Interfaith Hospitality Network, now Family Promise of the Lower Cape Fear, starting in 2005.

McKenzie (right), who has served in her current role for three years, has been shadowing Spain to prepare for the role since October. She will take on the executive director role when Spain retires.

“Lauren is a strategic and proven leader, respected by her colleagues, and the board is pleased that she will be guiding this organization upon Steve’s retirement,” said Parks in the release. “She has a strong leadership team, and we look forward to the continued momentum and progress they will bring for Cape Fear Habitat and the people we serve.”
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