Profile: Wyman B. Winston, Executive Director, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority September 14, 2017

Wyman B. Winston was appointed to the top position at the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) in January 2011. WHEDA and IFF have worked together since 2016 to co-finance affordable housing projects in Milwaukee, Dodgeville, and Sheboygan.

Under Mr. Winston’s leadership, WHEDA’s mission is to meet the state’s affordable housing needs while fostering business growth and job creation. Mr. Winston also serves on the state’s Task Force on Minority Unemployment as well as the Council on Workforce Investment, and he is president of the Greater Wisconsin Opportunities Fund, a Community Development Entity.

Prior to his current appointment, Mr. Winston spent 14 years at WHEDA as a senior manager, first in Multifamily and later heading the Emerging Markets Group. Outside of WHEDA, he spent 10 years at other redevelopment authorities based in Milwaukee, Chicago, Atlanta, and Portland. He has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago and was a Senior Fellow at the American Leadership Forum in 2004-2005.

1. You’ve spent much of your career working in the economic development space. Have you observed any trends in solutions that always tend to work, and those that don’t? What’s the biggest change in how governments and nonprofits approach reinvestment challenges?

I have observed, studied, and practiced the positive impacts of homeownership and sustainable affordable housing options for low-income families. Affordable housing works to help restore neighborhood economies. It is the foundation to assist local employment centers that have strong trade sector (exports) jobs. By integrating housing, infrastructure, and community economic development, you have the combined net benefit of creating spaces where people want to live, work, prosper, and grow. One of the biggest changes needed to succeed is to create an integrated vision for workforce, housing, and regional economies solutions scaled from neighborhoods to city to regionRight now, there is weak execution in improving the vitality of our urban and rural communities as well as a systemic lethargy in building a sufficient supply of housing in key markets across the country.

2. Since 2016, WHEDA and IFF have worked together to co-finance affordable housing projects in Milwaukee, Sheboygan, and Dodgeville. How do public-private partnerships benefit people in need of affordable housing?

Public-private partnerships benefit residents looking for affordable housing with rents that take some financial pressure off of their current incomes. For example, IFF and WHEDA partnered to co-finance the 15th and North Apartments in the Transform Milwaukee region. The project is a 64-unit, new construction, and adaptive reuse of an existing warehouse. Fifty-four units will be set aside for households at 60% of CMI. It is estimated that these 54 affordable units will provide approximately $150,000 in savings a year for the group of people renting those units and a total of $2.3 million in savings over the 15-year tax credit time period.

3. WHEDA finances projects in both rural and urban areas. Does the agency’s approach differ according to geography? 

Rural Wisconsin has some of the oldest housing stock in the state. Rural areas also face unique challenges, such as: lower population densities, declining populations, smaller multi-family unit needs, and higher construction costs. In addition, some rural markets have lower rents/incomes with comparable construction costs, resulting in a gap between what renters are able to pay and the higher cost of housing.

To help expand affordable housing projects in rural areas, WHEDA has a rural set-aside as part of its Qualified Action Plan (QAP) for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program it administers. Within this set-aside, rural projects compete against other rural projects for tax credits. In addition, WHEDA has a USDA Rural Preservation Revolving Loan Fund that offers financing specifically for existing rural developments that need rehabilitation.

In urban areas, WHEDA and the League of Wisconsin Municipalities are partnering to educate Wisconsin’s city and village officials about how WHEDA can help communities grow through increased affordable housing and economic development opportunities. Furthermore, WHEDA has conducted a series of listening sessions with members of the League to better understand their housing and economic development needs. The League has over 10,000 members representing local elected officials, staff, and partners in Wisconsin.

4. What do you think the role of the federal government should be in achieving affordable housing?

In a market economy where housing prices outstrip wages, the federal government is one of the only entities that can help achieve positive and strong results for working Americans who need an affordable place to live in our country. The federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program is one of the most successful and effective public-private partnerships. WHEDA has been the administrator for LIHTCs in Wisconsin since the federal program began in 1986. Since that time, WHEDA has awarded $342 million in LIHTCs, resulting in the development and rehabilitation of more than 53,000 units of rental housing for low- to moderate-income families, seniors, and persons with special needs.

LIHTCs are a sought-after resource from developers. In 2017, WHEDA received 43 applications representing $25.48 million in LIHTC requests for our annual award of $13.6 million in LIHTCs, demonstrating the highly competitive nature of this federal resource.

5. Of all the ground-breakings and ribbon-cuttings that you’ve no doubt attended, is there any one project that sticks out in your mind as particularly special to you personally? 

I have been truly blessed to take part in many ground-breakings and ribbon-cuttings for developments that WHEDA has invested in. It is truly one of the greatest benefits of being WHEDA’s Executive Director – the ability to experience first-hand how communities benefit from our financing. Although all of the projects we finance are impactful, there are three that stand out for me:

  • Menomonee Marketing Food Co-op (MMFC), Menomonie, WI – In 2016, WHEDA awarded $5 million in NMTCs as well as provided over a $1 million loan to help fund a new 13,000-square-foot building. The new facility includes a community classroom, expanded product lines, and a larger deli. The co-op has over 2,000 household members, and the expansion will help ensure that healthy food, wellness programs, and local farmers will be served in Menomonie.
  • Historic Garfield Campus, Milwaukee, WI – Located in the Bronzeville neighborhood, the campus has two components: (1) the Historic Garfield Apartments, a rehab of the historic school into 30 apartments, and (2) The Griot, a 41-unit, mixed-income apartment building along with space for American’s Black Holocaust Museum. WHEDA allocated $251,829 in LIHTCs to the Historic Garfield Apartments and $657,531 in LIHTCs to The Griot in 2016.  In addition, WHEDA provided a $1 million permanent loan and $5 million in construction financing. The campus is a mile from downtown Milwaukee and the new Milwaukee Bucks arena. The development is poised to help restore the Bronzeville neighborhood and increase the area’s local economic vitality. [Editor’s Note: IFF is the senior lender on The Griot and is also bridging a City TIF grant for the project.]
  • Gerald Ignace Indian Health Center, Milwaukee, WI – In 2015, WHEDA allocated $5.5 million in NMTCs to help finance a new health center, more than doubling its size from 13,000 square feet to nearly 40,000 square feet. In addition, IFF and WHEDA teamed up to provide a participation loan of $3.4 million for the expansion. The health center relocated to the vacant Goldmann’s Department Store on Milwaukee’s south side. The new development has breathed new life into an unused property and more importantly, has been able to positively impact the community by offering American Indians and other underserved populations access to healthcare.