DCEDC Floats Housing Idea

Steve Jenkins of the Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) hopes that insulated concrete forms could provide a solution for the county’s housing shortage on a larger scale. 

Jenkins is exploring a concept to build a facility in the City of Sturgeon Bay that would manufacture concrete forms to produce affordable, modular housing units to fill the need for single-family homes in Door County. The facility would keep construction local and provide a training facility for those in the local construction trades. Jenkins recently presented the concept to the Liberty Grove Town Board, which adopted a resolution supporting the idea.

Liberty Grove has multiple properties set aside for potential affordable-housing development, including the former Val-A Motel property in Ellison Bay. 

Jenkins said the idea came out of the task force that has worked with the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority and from discussions with Tom Landgraf, a UW-Madison professor whose students have been working on novel approaches to the Door County housing problem.

DCEDC is working on grant applications to fund the project and searching for a potential operator for the facility, which Jenkins estimated would cost about $2 million to build and equip. Once finished, it could produce 50 units per year for Door County in the $80,000-$120,000 range. Jenkins said the model could be used to keep affordable-housing stock in perpetuity.

Employers – including DCEDC – are struggling to attract and keep workers, in large part due to the lack of housing.

“We’re searching for the new Youth Apprenticeship coordinator, and we’ve basically realized we have to find someone who already has a house in Door County,” Jenkins said. 

Countywide, he said there is probably a greater housing deficit today than when DCEDC completed its comprehensive housing study in 2019. 

“We no longer can continue to kick the can down the road,” he said. “We need to stop talking about this and roll up our sleeves and start doing things. This [concrete-forms idea] isn’t the solution, but it could be one of the solutions.”

If the idea comes to fruition, Jenkins said a best-case scenario would be for the facility to be operational by next year.