50 Highlights for 50 Years
WHFA (Wisconsin Housing Finance Authority), now WHEDA (Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority), was established in 1972. Below are fifty highlights about the Authority to celebrate WHEDA’s 50th Anniversary. Here’s to fifty more years!
- Surpassed 12,000 units in total production across Wisconsin (1978).
- Began rehabilitation and preservation program of historically significant buildings for multifamily housing (1979).
- Read about WHEDA’s first multifamily rehabilitation project, Kilbourn Knoll Apartments, which is located in Milwaukee.
- Transitioned from manual to computerized data processing to manage the housing portfolio (1980).
- Began participating in the State of Wisconsin Procurement process (1982).
- In response to the recession, WHFA’s (Wisconsin Housing Finance Authority) mission expanded to include business and agriculture financing, becoming WHEDA (Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority) (1983).
- Exceeded $1 billion in total assets (1984).
- The WHEDA Foundation, Inc. was created to assist special needs housing providers in the acquisition or rehabilitation of housing units (1984) and begin administering the Housing Grant Program (1985).
- Issued its first small business loan financed by tax-exempt industrial revenue bonds (1985).
- Employees began partaking in hands-on charitable work with local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity (1987). WHEDA staff had the opportunity to experience the expansion of homeownership from the construction side as opposed to the lending side, through assisting with the building process. Today, WHEDA continues to be active in the community with organizations such as Second Harvest Food Bank and the Goodman Community Center.
- Volume of single-family mortgages surpassed $1 billion (1989).
- Entered the Space Race as a 5% investor in Orbital Technologies Corp. (Orbitec), a Madison-based high-tech company. One project involved designing a rocket engine powered by aluminum and oxygen so that astronauts would be able to make rocket fuel from lunar soil. The second project explored feasibility of the use of carbon dioxide from Mars’ atmosphere for fuel and life support systems on a space station orbiting the planet. WHEDA no longer participates in Venture Capital program investments, but this was a win-win as these investments helped the Authority gain experience while also assisting Wisconsin businesses (1989).
- Announced the development of a housing project to help Wisconsin citizens emigrate back to their homelands in Eastern Europe. This was the first project of its kind for the Authority (1989).
- Opened the doors to the Milwaukee office (1990).
- WHEDA’s Surplus Reserves Plan is renamed Dividends for Wisconsin. The plan is WHEDA’s proposal for how the Authority will use unencumbered reserves. WHEDA solicits feedback each year by way of public hearings. After the hearings, a plan is submitted to the WHEDA Board for consideration and later delivered to the Governor who then has 30 days to act on the plan before it is passed along for legislative approval (1990).
- Worked with the City of Milwaukee to promote homeownership in The Heart of Milwaukee in hopes of revitalizing that area of the city. With a special set-aside of $10 million from the HOME program and other initiatives, WHEDA offered up to $70 in closing costs while the City of Milwaukee offered technical assistance when homeowners wanted to make improvements to their property. A network of community-based organizations provided financial and credit counseling to help prospective buyers plan and prepare for their purchase (1990).
- The Tourism Fund was created to administer a loan guarantee program for tourism-related businesses throughout the state (1991).
- Guaranteed loans for the restoration of Taliesin (Home of Frank Lloyd Wright) (1991). WHEDA financed several acquisition and renovation projects related to Taliesin. The first portion of the Taliesin deal, which turned a former restaurant called The Spring Green into what is now the Taliesin Visitor’s Center, closed in 1993.
- The Authority's Vision and Values statement and the process used to create it was shared with other administrative types throughout state and local government. A key consultant who assisted with the development of WHEDA’s vision taught a course for state, county, and local administrators as part of her MBA certification program. She requested permission to use WHEDA materials in the course because it was one of the best examples she’d seen (1991).
- The Lease Purchase program was developed to give prospective homeowners a chance to live in the house they hoped to buy, for up to three years, while they prepared for home ownership. A third party would purchase the house with financing from WHEDA and lease it back to prospective homeowners. The potential homeowner subsequently purchased the home by obtaining a mortgage through a conventional lender. The monthly payments during the lease period covered the third party’s loan and escrow payments as well as an amount necessary to accumulate the funds needed for a down payment and estimated closing costs (1992).
- Reached $2 billion in home ownership lending (1992).
- Addressed home ownership among Wisconsin’s Native Americans (1993). The Federal Housing Administration’s Section 248 (FHA 248) rule allowed Native Americans to get a mortgage for a house on Tribal land if they had an agreement with their tribe, and their tribe had an agreement on file with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). WHEDA HOME loans are available under that agreement to borrowers who meet the normal HOME guidelines. Previously, this was not possible since a mortgage could not be placed on a home that was on reservation land. The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa was the first tribe to complete their lease agreement with the BIA.
- Made 1,000th single family mortgage loan in Milwaukee’s central city (1996).
- Started working with the State Employees Combined Campaign (SECC), now known as Partners in Giving, to raise money for over 500 local, state, national, and international charities (1996). WHEDA has collectively raised $727,877 for the Partners in Giving campaign.
- The WHEDA Conference began (1998). The WHEDA Conference is held annually as a networking and engagement opportunity for industry professionals to learn about innovative practices and cutting-edge projects that are advancing affordable housing and economic opportunity.
- HUD contracted with WHEDA to administer housing assistance payments (HAP). Part of that contract included performing compliance reviews of HUD-owned properties (2001).
- Increased loan activity in rural areas by utilizing the power of satellite internet to create a mobile office, which was retired a few years later due to technological advances (2002).
- Had a record-breaking year, closing more than $100 million in multifamily loans, and creating more than 2,000 housing units (2002).
- In conjunction with Legacy Bank Corp, Inc., WHEDA created the Wisconsin Community Development Legacy Fund (WCDLF) for the purpose of allocating federal New Markets Tax Credits (NMTCs) (2003). A second entity, the Greater Wisconsin Opportunities Fund (GWOF) was created in 2011 for the same purpose. Between 2004 and 2018, these two entities allocated $575 million in NMTCs to projects throughout the state of Wisconsin.
- Tribal Liaison position was created so the Authority could begin directly working with Wisconsin’s tribes (2004).
- Launched HouseKey Wisconsin, the first online mortgage application system in HFA (Housing Finance Authority) history (2004).
- For the first time, WHEDA awarded LIHTCs to multifamily deals on Tribal land ($19 million) and to supportive housing developments ($11 million) (2007).
- Allocated $20 million in New Markets Tax Credits to Milwaukee World Festivals, better known as Milwaukee Summerfest, to support much-needed improvements and updates to the grounds (2010).
- Held a 40th Anniversary Celebration at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center that featured a panel of former WHEDA stakeholders and highlighted the history and achievements of the company (2011).
- Rebranded to the current WHEDA logo and brand kit (2014). The chevron shape depicts a building to reflect WHEDA's primary business of housing-related lending and reflects the awn (tip) of wheat to represent the work within the agriculture industry. The tagline, "Together We Build Wisconsin" aligns with WHEDA's overall mission "to stimulate the state’s economy and improve the quality of life for Wisconsin residents by providing affordable housing and business financing products."
- Ran a Take the WHEDA Challenge superhero campaign (2014).
- Elevated Milwaukee’s Bronzeville with a two-phase redevelopment project (2017).
- Began administering the Wisconsin state housing tax credit program and awarded $6.6 million in credits to create 1,065 units of additional affordable housing (2018).
- Won national HUD Secretary’s Award for Healthy Homes (2018).
- Purchased the outstanding loan portfolio from the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). The sale of the portfolio provided DVA with capital to pursue other projects and the loans continue to perform well for WHEDA (2018).
- Established WHEDA Stories to share mission moments from the Authority’s wide-reaching work (2019), and officially introduced the initiative in early 2022.
- Finished Fiscal Year 2019 with nearly half a billion dollars in single family lending. This was the third largest funding total in WHEDA history and best since 2007 (2019).
- Launched an internal Culture Committee to foster a more inviting and inclusive place to work (2019).
- Announced the creation of The WHEDA Lab, an innovative space to conceptualize and test new programs and products by utilizing the Design Thinking process (2020).
- Started the Rural Affordable Workforce Housing Initiative (RAWFHI), which includes a community pilot effort and supplemental financing tools (2020).
- Collaborated with the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) to launch the first-of-its-kind Wisconsin Supportive Housing Institute (2021).
- Began administering Emergency Housing Vouchers (EHVs) (2021).
- Moved into the new office building located a few blocks off the East Washington Corridor (2022).
- Celebrated the Authority’s 50th Anniversary with key stakeholders via Walk Through WHEDA History at the Annual WHEDA Conference (2022).
- WHEDA’s longest employee, John Unertl, celebrated his 41st work anniversary on October 1 (2022).
- Partnered with the FHLBank Chicago to administer over $3 million through the Community First Housing Counseling Resource Program (2022). Grants will be administered over a three-year period to housing counseling agencies that are working to advance equity in homeownership.