WYMAN WINSTON, the new executive director of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), has a big task ahead as he tries to further strengthen the connections between the agency's two main pursuits.
“We have worked on growing WHEDA's economic development mission to match and complement our successful housing mission,” he says. “For years, we fought community needs with one hand tied behind our back. We need to be more like a boxer and have a strong onetwo punch with housing and economic development to help Wisconsin communities grow."
Winston's appointment by Gov. Scott Walker marked his return to WHEDA, where he spent 14 years as a senior manager, first in multifamily and then heading the emerging markets group. For the past 10 years, he worked at the Atlanta Development Authority and the Portland, Ore., Development Commission.
Q: What was your very first job?
A: Paperboy. I was up at 6 a.m. every day to get my papers, fold them, and distribute them before school.
Q: How did you get interested in housing and economic development?
A: Through my training and practice as an architect in Chicago. I began thinking about why some communities do better than others, and what tools could improve the overall economic health of a community. Housing and economic development fit both my passion and interests.
Q: WHEDA recently announced a special tax credit round to build housing in Marinette, where more than 1,000 jobs will be created by a U.S. Navy contract to the Marinette Marine Corp. Tell us a little more about this round and what you hope it will accomplish.
A: Marinette doesn't have enough quality housing for the workers who will be brought on for this new Navy contract. The tax credit program has always helped communities create good rental housing for working families, so offering a special round of tax credits for Marinette was a natural fit.
Q: Will the housing that is built be needed when the contract ends and those jobs leave Marinette?
A: Yes. Marinette workers make some of the finest military and commercial ships in the world, so we believe more orders will keep the shipyards busy and our housing filled with working families.
Q: WHEDA is different from many other housing finance agencies because it also has an economic development mission. How are housing and economic development connected?
A: WHEDA's approach is to look at how our three business areas of single-family, multifamily, and economic development can collaborate. We have had some success with rental and commercial projects using both multifamily and economic development financing, and we are looking at additional deals that will combine housing and commercial real estate resources.
Q: We understand that the agency is looking at making the connections even stronger in its new qualified allocation plan. What changes might be in store in the low-income housing tax credit program next year?
A: We will look at ways to reward projects located in employment centers that create jobs or that support broader economic development goals.
Q: What's been the toughest decision you have had to make so far as executive director?
A: Some personnel decisions have been difficult.
Q: What's the last book you read?
A: “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.
Q: What's next for Wyman Winston?
A: I would like to work on a jobs and industry strategy for our cities.