The first months on the job for Gloria L. Materre, executive director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), have been busy. Materre, who started at IHDA in September, had been deputy chief of staff under Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, where she played an instrumental role in housing, legislative matters, economic and business development, and community stabilization.

Affordable Housing Finance recently caught up with Materre to talk about her goals, IHDA's stimulus efforts, the 2010 qualified allocation plan (QAP), and the initiative to preserve affordable rental homes in the state, which was launched at the end of February.

Q: What have your main goals been since taking this new position last fall?

A: My overall goal is to focus on how we can help with housing in this struggling economy by helping Illinois residents survive in this downturn. I also want to help more people finance homes to increase affordable rental housing construction, and move forward more risk-share projects.

Banks aren't lending in this economy, so we are a good resource for Illinois residents at this time. I would like to see our single-family product—Home Start—out the door to serve first-time home buyers. (Home Start offers downpayment assistance for first-time buyers and veterans.)

Q: What are the biggest challenges that you see facing affordable housing owners and developers in Illinois, and how are you helping alleviate those problems on the affordable rental side?

A: I think one of the biggest challenges now is the low-income housing tax credit. It's waned due to the recession, and there's a limited market for the federal tax credits now, making tax credit syndication very difficult. The federal government has stepped in with the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which has provided critical financial assistance to IHDA. We are also working with the National Council of State Housing Agencies, as the organization represents the interests of all state housing finance agencies to continue legislation and efforts regarding the recovery effort.

Q: How have your Tax Credit Assistance Program and credit exchange program been going in Illinois?

A: It has gone very well in Illinois. More than 1,000 rental homes will break ground across the state of Illinois based upon TCAP. Also, we expect to close on additional developments to create nearly 1,000 more affordable homes in Illinois. We have measured $116 million in stimulus dollars creating an estimated 1,440 jobs throughout the state. It definitely stimulated─and gave a boost to─the market.

Q: What do you think the greatest housing needs are today for Illinois residents?

1. There's a great need to create more affordable rental housing. I think providing more housing for veterans is key. Another need is helping with the foreclosure problem by providing financial assistance. Now that's difficult, obviously, because of the need for a funding source; 

2. We must get the word out that we have the Home Start program and downpayment assistance to help people; and

3. In addition, we need to lobby the federal government to see if we can get some of those TARP funds for the foreclosure crisis that Illinois is facing.

Q: Can you tell me more about IHDA's new preservation initiative?

A: It is really key because we have a lot of older housing stock in the state of Illinois that definitely needs preservation. We are offering low-cost, fixed-rate, permanent financing to borrowers so they can finance new construction, acquisition, and rehabilitation or adaptive reuse of existing developments. IHDA is taking part in the multifamily initiative bond issue by the Treasury where we have $184 million available for tax-exempt financing with pre-determined fixed rates of interest for development. This will allow us to transition the money back into the market.

We're collaborating with officials representing the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and the MacArthur Foundation. It's basically our responsibility to get housing back on track in Illinois. We can reposition properties to make them more competitive, more efficient, more green, and basically bring them to a better state by taking them out of disrepair to help the neighborhoods.

Q: What were some of the key changes in IHDA's 2010 QAP?

1. One of the biggest changes is the creation of a preliminary application process. The preliminary application process helps us and developers save time and money. If they pre-apply and it's not a project that we are going to focus on or they don't meet a certain standard, then it stops right there and they don't go on to the second round. I think a lot of frustration in the past was that people got far along in the process, but they didn't know if the project was a real go so they spent a lot of money;

2. We now mandate green initiatives, including low-flow faucets and toilets and other green features; and

3. We're also looking at how the projects are going to be competitive in each region. We're setting aside regions that really should have projects that maybe haven't in the past. This change will spread the economics across the state of Illinois, allowing underserved areas to be able to develop projects.

Q: Do you have any other new programs or changes in the pipeline?

A: One of the biggest things is getting awareness of IHDA out there. A lot of people don't know who we are or what we do. That includes the average person who could be a first-time home buyer who may need financing or downpayment assistance to the legislators who don't know how we operate or how we can help the state of Illinois. So we're looking at doing an awareness campaign and getting the word out about us. We're a bank with a public mission, and we're open for business. We can be a great resource to the state of Illinois, and we can help get the economy back on scale.

Q: What has been the biggest decision you've made so far at IHDA.

A: The biggest decision that I've made is to look at what IHDA can do in the future to sustain the longevity of the agency, including raising awareness about IHDA. I brought in a marketing and communications director who is really working on that. That's a pretty big move in these times. If people don't know who you are or what you do, it's difficult for you to be competitive in this market.

Q: How have your past work experiences helped you in this new position?

A: I worked on a lot of housing initiatives while I was at Gov. Pat Quinn's office. I did a lot of lobbying in Springfield on the governor's housing initiatives. By trade, I am a real estate lawyer and dealt with a lot of real estate issues and concerns. That experience has certainly helped me be successful in relating to IHDA's mission, understanding the legal issues surrounding the deals that we do and having a strong interest in helping our economy get on track in terms of real estate.