Main Content

Wisconsin’s Affordable Housing Shortage

Wisconsin, along with the rest of the country, has been facing an affordable workforce housing crisis for years. When home prices are too high or there is not enough inventory, workers are unable to move to a community. This puts immense strain on the workforce, families, and local businesses.

At Broad Street Brokers, we are advocates for attracting and keeping workers here with affordable housing. In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at the affordable workforce housing shortage and how Bayfield County is working to mend the situation.

What Is Affordable Workforce Housing?

As defined by the federal government, housing is deemed affordable when it consumes 30 percent or less of a household’s income. This leaves at least 70% of a household’s income for other necessities, such as health care, transportation, and food.

Workforce housing refers to the supply of housing that meets the needs of the community’s workforce. The gap in affordable workforce housing is the difference between a worker’s wages and a home they can afford.

photo credit

Quick Facts About the Housing Shortage in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has a serious shortage of housing that middle-income families and entry-level workers can afford to rent or buy. According to the 2019 report Falling Behind: Addressing Wisconsin’s Workforce Housing Shortage, Wisconsin has created 55% fewer homes and 75% fewer lots compared to pre-recession averages.

Additional stats on the lack of affordable housing include:

Over 64% of housing in Wisconsin was built before 1980
Wisconsin has a shortage of over 120,000 rental units for extremely low-income households
The median age for first-time home buyers in Wisconsin has risen to 33
In 2004, more than 30,000 single-family home permits were authorized in Wisconsin compared to only 12,500 permits authorized in 2017

What Are the Effects of Housing Shortages?

This lack of affordable housing in Wisconsin has a ripple effect across entire cities and counties, leading to:

Difficulty filling job vacancies
Difficulty recruiting and keeping new police officers and firefighters
Difficulty recruiting teachers for the local schools
Residents are forced to choose between necessities such as paying for medical bills or food or affording rent
A tax base that can’t grow

How Has the Affordable Housing Shortage Affected Bayfield County?

Half of Bayfield County’s homeowners are 60 and older, as reported by the 2021 Chequamegon Bay Region Housing Report. With a higher median age — 52 in Bayfield County vs. Wisconsin’s median age of 39 — the lack of affordable housing has a significant impact on the county.

Along with a higher median age, the housing report found:

Almost half of the rental homes in Bayfield County earn less than $25,000 annually
Over 40 percent of these households earning less than $25,000 a year spend over 30 percent of their income on housing costs
The median household income in Bayfield County was approximately $56,000 annually
The average home price was $193,000 the previous year

What Is Wisconsin Doing to Address the Affordable Housing Shortage?

Statewide, major initiatives are in the works to improve the affordable housing situation. This affordable workforce housing agenda includes legislation, reforms, and proposals designed to benefit job seekers and attract out-of-state workers to reduce the labor shortage.

Examples of these initiatives include:

– Tax credits and local government incentives to lower housing costs
– Shovel-ready site permits that streamline the approval process
– Rehabilitation loan programs
– Steps to encourage the restoration and renovation of affordable housing units
– Removal of outdated regulations

What Is Bayfield County Doing About the Affordable Housing Shortage?

Along with statewide efforts to increase affordable housing, Bayfield County is hard at work making positive, sustainable changes to the workforce housing situation. The coordinated approach of the Rural Workforce Housing Development Task Force — a committee of private and public leaders — is dedicated to expanding the availability of affordable housing for families, workers, and seniors.

Earlier this year, the Bayfield County board unanimously approved a resolution that would support the development of 40 to 60 housing units. The housing units would be built on a 10-acre parcel donated by Bayfield County.

Mark Abeles-Allison, Bayfield County Administrator, states, “Affordable housing is in short supply. Employers throughout the county are having problems attracting employees due to the housing shortage. Bayfield County has prioritized the topic.”

“The county has offered to contribute land in exchange for a 40-unit development. Bayfield County was selected as one of four WHEDA Pilot Communities. A consortium of Bayfield and Ashland County communities have met over the past four years with WHEDA which is providing technical assistance to problem solve.”

Real estate developer and owner of The Wild Rice Retreat, Heidi Zimmer, is one of many important local advocates working to solve Bayfield County’s affordable housing shortage. Heidi states, “The need for workforce housing in our region is great. Life cycle housing is essential for a community’s long-term health, viability and sustainability.”

“The work of the workforce housing committee, in conjunction with support from the State of Wisconsin, is instrumental in shifting the momentum from assessment into actionable and attainable goals for the region.”

photo credit

Local initiatives to increase affordable housing include:

Attracting more investors and real estate developers to the area, and offering incentives by reducing high infrastructure costs, reducing restrictive zoning regulations, and finding creative building solutions. Removing complex permitting processes, could also be helpful.

Need Help Finding Affordable Housing?

Our small communities throughout Bayfield County are closely involved in addressing the affordable housing shortage in Wisconsin. It’s yet another aspect of our little town that makes us so proud to call it home.

As vested members of the Bayfield community, we are dedicated to meeting the workforce housing challenge and being part of the solution. At Broad Street Brokers, we are advocates of affordable housing and are committed to bringing forth positive change.

We are devoted to helping families find homes within their price range, even in this competitive market. If you are struggling to find a home within your budget, please reach out to our caring team. We would be honored to play a role in finding you a home that meets your budget and needs.

Written by:

Site Image


Sign up to receive the latest news and updates!

PS. We don’t spam.

Skip to content