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Erin Mathern
Erin Mathern is a shareholder at Winthrop & Weinstine. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Real estate background spurs affordable housing focus

Name: Erin Mathern

Title: Shareholder, Winthrop & Weinstine

Education: B.A., political science, Gustavus Adolphus; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law


Erin Mathern expects the coronovirus pandemic to add to the need for affordable housing, the primary focus of her real estate practice as a shareholder at Winthrop & Weinstine.

Families that did not qualify for affordable housing before the pandemic-related layoffs likely would now, Mathern said.

After permits for multifamily units and affordable rentals dropped in March, Mathern expects a rebound in housing construction.

“We have such a dire lack of affordable housing across the country but especially here in the Twin Cities and in greater Minnesota,” Mathern said. “But most affordable housing developers and public and private partners are committed to keeping projects moving forward.”

Mathern learned about construction and housing while working during summer breaks with her father, a real estate developer. As chair of the nonprofit Minnesota Housing Partnership, she works to expand affordable housing capacity and advocate for public policies for the industry.


Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A: I’m an introvert with some learned extroverted behaviors. I like to talk about housing, construction and architecture. I also really like to talk about my 5-year-old son.

Q: What prompted you to study law and pursue it professionally?

A: I was captain of my high school debate team. Anyone who does academic debate thinks about a career in law because a lot of the coaches and judges are lawyers. But I didn’t go after undergrad. I went to work with my dad. We decided that, to grow the family business, the second generation, me, should bring something to the table. Since I’d been thinking about law school, we decided that that would be a good way to help our business. I worked full time and went to law school full time.

Q: What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A: I’ve listened to a couple on Audible recently: “Know My Name,” by Chanel Miller, and “Evicted.” Most fun is reading “My Side of the Mountain” to my son.

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours?

A: I dislike the use of the word paperwork. Oftentimes it describes important legal documents that someone isn’t taking the time to understand. Then they just say, “I just need to get through that paperwork.” It just makes me scream inside.

Q: What are your favorite aspects of being an attorney?

A: My partners in our real estate finance group are some of the smartest, kindest, most thoughtful people. I like the work I do because I get to learn something new every day and get to work in construction, finance and policy and politics.

Q: Least favorite?

A: The practice of law is one of the least diverse American professions. We would do better and would be more responsive to our clients and the community if there were more of a diversity of voice in our profession.

Q: What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A: Pre-COVID I loved to travel, to take our son to fun and interesting destinations and watch his face when he sees something that is brand new. Currently I like to take walks around my neighborhood.

Q: If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A: I would take them to the American Swedish Institute. We would look at the historic Turnblad Mansion and see a new or traveling exhibit and have “fika” at Fika.

Q: Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you admire most?

A: Todd Urness, the founder of Winthrop’s tax credit and real estate finance group, is an encyclopedia of knowledge about our industry. Tami Diehm, who is on our board of directors; we went to law school together but took different paths afterward. She is an incredibly hard worker and is so devoted to the firm and her clients.

Q: What is your favorite depiction of the law or the legal profession in popular culture?

A: The movie “Michael Clayton” portrays a different kind of lawyer than most, but it’s a fascinating and really well-done movie.

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