Mayor proposes affordable housing task force

Wausau's affordable housing doesn't meet need
Wausau's affordable housing doesn't meet need(wsaw)
Published: May. 4, 2021 at 6:38 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Mayor Katie Rosenberg meets with the Economic Development Committee today to propose that a task force be created to help the city determine the extent of its affordable housing needs.  She put in a Facebook post that people told her the need was not being met.

The Director of the North Central Community Action Project  helps people whose income doesn’t meet all of the necessities of daily life, and knows all about that.

“You know fair market rent for right now, for a one-bedroom is $618, a two-bedroom is $830 and a three-bedroom is $1,117.  That’s considered fair-market rent.  I don’t really know if that’s affordable for most people,” said Director Diane Sennholz.

She says they have to make sacrifices to find ways to provide for their families.

“So a lot of people, they choose to either buy food, buy their children clothing, the proper clothing for school, or maybe something they need for sports, or a major car repair or a medical necessity, so they’ll choose not to pay their rent.”

United Way’s Director of Community Impact for Financial Stability and Health said he’s seen the sacrifice go the other way too.  Either way, he said it puts enormous stress on the family.  He said affordable housing is in the best interest of everyone.

“That’s a benefit to the community.  When they have an affordable housing option for them, it takes weight off the rest of the community and it takes weight maybe off more programmatic efforts, because now maybe they can breathe a little easier,” said Director Ben Lee.

But Sennholz said that’s sometimes easier said than done.

“There just needs to be so much more.  In fact there’s kind of a housing shortage right now.  That’s what we’re finding.  Sometimes our clients just can’t find places to rent,” she said.

Lee says the only way to improve the situation is to crunch the numbers first.  And he admits that it is not a quick or easy task.

“It’s a needs assessment in the community.  You don’t want to just throw things at the wall.  You want to be able to lead with data and understand your community and be able to fill the gaps so the community can respond to its citizens,” he said.

(The outcome of the vote was not known at the time of the writing of this article.)

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