Like much of the country, Menomonie is facing a housing shortage.
During four events, the city’s planning commission and council will look to listen and then determine the best action in helping solve the housing shortage issue.
A special meeting of the council and planning commission was held Monday to discuss the housing supply and development issues in the community as the first step.
“This is a project that’s been in the works for a long time and we know that we need better, more housing,” council president Mary Solberg said.
A panel discussion is slated for Monday, Jan. 13, to continue exploring housing needs in the community.
Cedar Corporation’s Wendy Sander and Charlie Jones presented on the rising costs of construction, zoning statistics and housing gaps in Menomonie.
Costs of construction and labor shortage have greatly impacted development, Sander said. The national inflation rate from 1998-2018 was 54% while inflation of infrastructure increased by 184%.
“After the recession a lot of these contractors didn’t have work, they got rid of their employees and they aren’t able to hire them back,” Sander said.
In Menomonie, there is a gap for low-income housing and for high-value homes.
There is an estimated 217 homes valued at less than $50,000 while there is an approximate 279 owner-occupied households with incomes less than $20,000, according to U.S. Census data from 2018. These households have a maximum affordable house value of $54,000. This leaves a housing gap of 62 homes for the income level.
According to the housing gap analysis by Cedar Corporation, Menomonie has a total housing gap of 788 affordable homes that fit under maximum affordable house values for specific income levels. But there is a surplus of affordable homes for income levels between $35,000-49,999 and $50,000-74,999.
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Some people who may be able to afford high-value homes may live in homes that are valued at less, leaving less homes for middle-income individuals, Sander said. This also means some individuals are living in homes that exceed the standard 30% of their income.
A study by United Way found many households in Wisconsin don’t fall below federal poverty level but still struggle to meet basic needs.
The ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) Report found 37% of Wisconsin households can’t afford basic needs such as housing, child care, food, transportation and health care.
In Dunn County, that number is 42% and within the city 56% fall under this category. The villages of Boyceville, Colfax and Wheeler also exceed 50% of households that fit under the ALICE poverty level.
Cedar Corporation found there are vacant and undeveloped lots in the city that could be used to fill the housing shortage.
Based on 2016 data, there are 161 single-family-zoned vacant platted lots with in the city, with a combined vacant platted lots of 224 zoned as single family, limited multiple, multiple or twin homes. This does include lots that were purchased and not developed and aren’t for sale, Jones said.
Cedar Corporation calculated in 2018 unplatted land that has been zoned but not developed and found 1,338 single family lots within the city. The estimates also found 814 limited multiple, 200 multiple and 82 twin homes lots.
“Within the city limits there is a good deal of fill-in that could take place,” Jones said. “There’s areas that are not developed that could certainly be developed. It’s probably most cost effective for the city and developer to look at those areas than to try to build out.”
Sandy White said during public comments it’s important the council takes a look at current trends.
As an employee at UW-Stout, she said the university has seen a decrease in the number of students on campus. Trends such as a lower total number of individuals graduating high school is down and the high cost of education has some looking for employment directly after graduating. White said the council should be focusing on also meeting the housing needs of an aging population.
“A lot of us that own those single-family homes maybe would want to switch to something else where we don’t have to pay for lawn care, gutter service, snow plowing, all that good stuff,” White said. “I would like to see somewhere in your plan, what are we doing for the aging population in Menomonie?”
KT Gallagher, the director of the Dunn County Health Department, said according to the department’s community health needs assessment 47% of the 1,000 respondents said safe and quality housing was a weakness in the county.
Respondents cited a lack of affordable housing, unsafe housing, landlord issues and existing housing was too expensive as reasons for it being a weakness while offering solutions to build more low-income housing, increase housing regulations, enforce housing regulations and provide lower rent costs.