The Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development (WPHD) was created in 1985 to expand affordable housing opportunities throughout Wisconsin. Since that time, we have been involved in the development and management of numerous programs, each addressing our mission and business strategy to expand options for affordable housing and revitalize neighborhoods through partnerships between the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
At WPHD, we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, and affordable home. We know that housing is the foundation for both individuals and families. Access to affordable housing is important to developing a steady workforce, vibrant neighborhoods, and a prosperous economy.
The issue of affordable housing has been at the forefront of recent economic-development activities because the lack of available housing is affecting businesses’ decisions to locate in a particular community. In Wisconsin, you must earn more than $18 an hour in order to afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment and still pay only 30 percent of your income for rent. Only about half of the jobs being created in Wisconsin pay this wage level. And yet we need childcare workers, homecare workers, and service workers who might make less than this wage level. So we must continue to aggressively pursue the development of affordable housing across the state, but particularly in communities with expanding job markets.
WPHD promotes affordable housing in a number of ways. First, we provide technical assistance to communities to look at their affordable housing needs and to develop programs to address needs. Second, we manage the federal programs that provide assistance to first-time home buyers in purchasing a home and to homeowners so that they can rehab and remain living in a safe and healthy home. These same rehab programs assist families in completing rehab activities to ensure that their children are growing up in homes free of lead paint. Finally, we engage in development activities. We have worked on the development of large and small rental properties, developed condo projects, and established a mixed-income neighborhood.
Currently, our development work is focused on the purchase and rehab of homes. In most cases, we sell the homes, providing affordable home-ownership opportunities to households who make less than 80 percent of the area median income. We also develop smaller rental projects in communities to provide opportunities for those of lower income to afford to rent safe and decent housing.
When we purchase a home, it has generally been vacant for a year or more. As a result, it usually requires substantial rehabilitation in order to become an asset in the neighborhood. We try to take the worst house in the neighborhood and make it great again—a home for families to be proud to own. In many cases, we try to target particular neighborhoods in a community and do many homes to improve neighborhoods and areas that had been hard hit in the recession. In addition, we also engage in new construction in these same neighborhoods. A house standing that cannot be rehabbed may be demolished to make way for new homes.
For example, we have done almost 25 units of housing, including new construction homes, in two downtown neighborhoods in Janesville. When we do a home on a block, other people living in the neighborhood see the investment that is being made and decide to invest in their own home. As a result, over the period of a couple of years, dramatic improvements can take place in a neighborhood. In the area where we work in Janesville, the value of the homes that we worked on tripled, and median home prices in the entire neighborhood increased by more than 50 percent. Development of affordable housing in most neighborhoods is a win for everyone!
In addition to creating affordable housing, the work that we do provides jobs to contractors and training opportunities for at-risk youth in our community. One contractor states, “The development program of the WPHD has created a number of local jobs and helped renew some of the neighborhoods hardest hit by the recession. The program is making safe, quality homes affordable for lower-income families and bringing back a sense of pride to neighborhoods that were once deteriorating.” In addition, where possible, we use youth training crews, including young people that are learning construction skills under supervision. These skills are ones that they can use to get living-wage jobs in our community.
We take great pride in the work that we do, believing that anyone would want to live in the housing we develop. The homes are lead free, asbestos free, well designed, and energy efficient to create truly affordable housing for families now and into the future.
Katherine Kamp is the executive director at Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development. wphd.org
Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development
121 S Pinckney Street, Suite 420
Madison, WI 53703