In a move that will expand its product offerings beyond the affordable housing business, Enterprise Community Investment, Inc., is merging its Multifamily Mortgage Finance division with Bellwether Real Estate Capital, LLC.

The new company, Bellwether Enterprise Real Estate Capital, LLC, is expected to top $1.5 billion in combined mortgage production volume this year.

After about eight months of discussions, the two sides expect to close the transaction in the second quarter.

“At Enterprise, our specialty is low-income and affordable housing,” said Lamar Seats, currently senior vice president of the Columbia, Md.-based firm’s Multifamily Mortgage Finance business. “We have a strong platform there.”

However, Enterprise felt it was important to diversify and strengthen its mortgage product offerings, he told Affordable Housing Finance.

Seats will serve as CEO of Bellwether Enterprise. Ned Huffman of Bellwether will serve as president, and Debbie Rogan of Bellwether will be executive vice president.

Headquartered in Cleveland, Bellwether’s specialty has been on the market-rate side, according to Huffman. Typically, about 40 percent of its business has been in conventional multifamily housing with the balance in other commercial sectors.

The combined team will have 90 employees and offer financing expertise in multifamily housing, office, retail, industrial, hotel, and health-care lending markets.  Originators will be located in 13 cities.

Huffman noted that Bellwether has worked primarily in the Midwest while Enterprise has a presence in many of the nation’s larger markets. The firm will result in expanded geographic reach.

Both Enterprise and Bellwether are aligned in its interest to develop an aggressive growth plan, Huffman said.

Seats estimated that roughly 30 percent of the $1.5 billion in mortgage production volume this year will involve affordable rental housing.

“We, as Enterprise and the new entity, remain committed to the affordable housing business,” Seats said. “We hope for significant growth.”

The leaders said the new firm  will provide streamlined underwriting as a special Fannie Mae Delegated Underwriting and Servicing Special Affordable lender, Freddie Mac Targeted Affordable Housing lender, Freddie Mac Program Plus lender, a Federal Housing Administration-approved Multifamily Accelerated Processing lender, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Sec. 538 Rural Development lender, issuer of Ginnie Mae mortgage-backed securities, and correspondent relationships with more than 25 life insurance companies.