Resolution to Wisc. Counties Association-Press State Legislature for Low-Income Housing Buildout

(Resolution appears below the letter)

Daniel Bahr,
Government Affairs Associate
Wisconsin Counties Association
22 Mifflin Street
Madison, WI 53703

Dear Mr. Bahr:

Robyn Voss said that you as Government Affairs Associate would be the right person to direct my questions toward. I’m attempting to write a resolution for our Portage County Board to pass up to the Wisconsin Counties Association and have the WCA approve at the fall convention.

Briefly,

This would call upon the Counties to put before the Legislature the request (or demand, if you prefer) substantive action, including making appropriations, on the affordable housing crisis (the lack of housing affordable to our low-income workforce) which afflicts all our Cities, Villages and Townships large and small in Wisconsin.

Below: Chart from CAP Services’ Community Needs Survey published in October 2022. The Area Median Income (AMI) is the factor used here to consider “affordability” of a County’s total housing units. Note that in Portage County, Marquette and Waushara County, “units affordable” at half the AMI are fewer than 30%. At 80% AMI, in Portage County fully 4 of 10 units are not considered “Affordable.” Also note, the data was derived before the full two years of Pandemic effects upon this data was compiled (it is still being compiled).

The Resolution would request that funds be earmarked in WHEDA for the purpose of actually increasing the low-income housing stock by enabling municipalities to build, own, and operate their own low-income housing stock, whether that be multi-family, single-family houses, “tiny house” groves, and step-up transitional emergency housing for those who have become homeless.

There should also be provision for funding of co-operative housing that could serve the need of the younger generations in our workforce who may not intend to start a traditional family and buy a starter home as a family. The make-up and texture of younger generation households has been changing over the past two decades and the housing authorities need to recognize these changes and accommodate to them. Since a co-op is member-owned (and managed), this would fill the need for homeownership without the dire financial constraints of today’s extreme mortgage payments.

A final feature that should be included in building housing for the future is that the housing must be built upon a renewable energy substrate, in order to accomplish lower carbon emissions from natural gas combustion for heat, as well as preparation for near-future decline in the supply of the “fossil” natural resources consumed in our housing as well as the dependence upon automobile travel owing to our spread-out urban landscape.

So if you could send me a set of guidelines for how a WCA resolution should be worded, along with tips for working out wording with our County Corporation Counsel, that would be great.

Further, please forward if you will, this message to any County elected officials (or staff) who are already underway with affordable housing initiatives or a resolution putting such a set of requests to the Legislature. I don’t want to duplicate or work at cross purposes.

Thank you for your time today.

Sincerely, Bob Gifford
Portage County Supervisor, District 10 (a mix of Stevens Point wards with many low-income workers, as well as Village of Park Ridge and Wards in the Town of Hull, areas with fewer low-income residents).

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Resolution–In the works awaiting feedback/editing from some others.

WHEREAS, Wisconsin people have been living through an affordable housing crisis that extends back the past two decades; in cities small and large, young workers and students in 4-year or technical colleges have borne the burden of economic stress along with townspeople in campus towns;

WHEREAS, human-service agencies such as Community Action Programs and the United Way in whatever County you represent, have been reporting out for many years now, the data concerning the stressful impact of rents (or mortgages) upon low-income households,with many of our northern rural Counties having 45% or higher economic stress of the Asset-Limited, Income-Contrained, Employed persons or ALICE;

WHEREAS, housing insecurity is often a factor in our Counties’ Health and Human Services departments, as it contributes to the stress and instability of parent’s lives, often contributing to Child Protective Services cases;

WHEREAS, many Counties in the North-Central Region, for example, are experiencing alarming increases in the population of homeless persons, even in smaller cities such as Stevens Point and Wausau, and many different ad hoc efforts at mutual aid are unable to keep up with this rising population’s needs to get back into housing security;

WHEREAS, for disabled people, struggling to afford housing, the shortage means they could be forced to live in homes that do not fit their support needs; resources to accessible and affordable housing are currently an extremely complicated process and force disabled people to prove the reality of poverty to even get basic needs met; disabled families especially do not receive supports they are eligible for due to the inability to physically and mentally comply to the very restrictive housing guidelines;

WHEREAS, owing to a decade of austerity for local governments with frozen state shared revenue flowing back to them, local governments are generally short on funding to be able to provide much in the way of ambitious initiatives for public-funded public housing;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, Wisconsin Counties Association, in conference assembled, requests the Wisconsin Legislature to enact enabling legislation, and make appropriations, to provide the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Agency, with funding adequate to provide both grants and loans to all 72 Counties, start-up funding for County-municipality collaboratives providing publicly-built, publicly-owned, and publicly-managed low-income public housing initiatives which fully accommodate disabled persons under ADA guidelines and promote child safety and welfare.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Wisconsin Counties Association requests that legislation passed by the Legislature assures that these initiatives will employ a system-level approach for Design/Build of multi-family sustainable and energy-efficient housing communities which will build new public housing units on a renewable-energy substrate from the ground up, both to reduce “carbon footprints” and to prepare for future natural resource limits and insufficiency of fossil fuels in our region.