Public finance veteran Robert Drillings has joined Akerman Senterfitt LLP's New York City office as part of its real estate group to focus on affordable housing, the firm announced last week.

Drillings served as general counsel to the New York State Housing Finance Agency and New York State Mortgage Agency from 1998 to 2004, and most recently worked at CIFG Assurance NA, where he had been deputy head of public finance until early last year.

Drillings said he will be working on affordable housing projects nationally, helping developers decide whether they should be seeking to use tax-exempt bonds, low-income housing tax credits, or other programs, but he expects that his focus will be more local.

"I'm a New York boy and so I know the New York metropolitan marketplace better than any other," he said.

The credit crunch, lack of liquidity, and dislocation in the bond market has made deals more challenging, he said.

"We're hopeful that will change and that as credit becomes more available to support the development of housing and other real estate development that complements affordable housing, we'll be able to help our clients make decisions about which direction to take their projects - where to bring them and when to bring them," he said.

Drillings began his law career in 1979 at the New York City Law Department after earning his J.D. that year at Syracuse University College of Law. He joined Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP in 1982 and stayed there until 1998.

The team Drillings joined draws on real estate attorneys who have been part of Stadtmauer Balkin LLP, which merged with Akerman Senterfitt last year.

"We've always been very involved in tax-exempt financing, but we were very excited about bringing Robert on board because we never had the specific expertise in affordable housing and have always viewed it as a complementary practice area to the rest of our firm," said Steven Polivy, who had been at Stadtmauer and is now chairman of the firm's economic development practice group, which is part of the larger real estate group.

Akerman has not been a big player in housing bonds, having served as bond counsel most recently in 2000, according to Thomson Reuters. Nationally, the firm ranked 212th as bond counsel and 111th as underwriter's counsel.

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