Door County has been selected as one of three pilot communities in the state to take part in the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority’s (WHEDA) new Rural Affordable Workforce Housing Initiative.
The initiative attempts to address the state’s shortage of rural affordable workforce housing through the pilot communities, coupled with new financing tools for home buyers and developers in rural areas.
The pilot program attracted strong interest, which created a highly competitive selection process, according to WHEDA CEO Joaquín Altoro. Priority went to applicants who demonstrated a readiness to create solutions that could work across rural Wisconsin.
The selected communities identified diverse pilot teams, demonstrated current land-use policies that support affordable workforce housing and exhibited openness to considering innovative solutions with new collaborative partners.
The Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) Housing Study that was completed in 2019 was a key component in Door County’s selection, along with strong collaborations that already exist within the community regarding housing issues. Becoming a pilot community will help Door County to continue its focus on improving and increasing access to decent, affordable housing.
Individuals who were pivotal to Door County’s selection include Bret Bicoy, president and CEO of the Door County Community Foundation; Marty Olejniczak, community development director of the City of Sturgeon Bay; and Mariah Goode and Rebecca Kerwin of the Door County Department of Land Use Services.
A design team will now work together during a three-phase, six-month process to develop innovative solutions for affordable housing. That team comprises Bicoy; Steve Jenkins, executive director of the DCEDC; David Lienau, chair of the Door County Board of Supervisors, president of the Sister Bay Village Board, and a former business owner employing J-1 Visa workers; David Ward, mayor of Sturgeon Bay; Noel Halverson, president and CEO of NeighborWorks Green Bay; Colleen Homb, executive director of Lakeshore CAP; Dave Eliot, publisher of the Peninsula Pulse, president of Peninsula Publishing & Distribution, and chair of the Baileys Harbor Town Board; James Honig, president of the Door County Housing Partnership, pastor of Shepherd of the Bay Lutheran Church, and a member of the Interfaith Prosperity Coalition; Erich Pfeifer, president and CEO of Marine Travelift; Michele Notz, administrator of the Good Samaritan Society–Scandia Village; Sarah Bonovich, property manager and owner of Doneff Companies; and Marissa Downs, president of Mosaic Ventures.
WHEDA’s $10 million rural affordable workforce housing initiative, including the community pilot program and supplemental financing tools, are funded by WHEDA operations, and no state tax dollars are involved.