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Letter to the Editor: A Share of Lodging-Tax Revenues Should Fund Affordable Housing

The contents of two recent Peninsula Pulse articles need to be addressed relative to what affordable housing is and how we get there. Friday’s announcement [“Sturgeon Bay Prepares $2 Million+ for Housing Projects”] of a new affordable-housing apartment complex where a one-bedroom is considered affordable at $800 per month indicates the lack of practical knowledge that exists regarding a working income. 

Sturgeon Bay Mayor David Ward’s calculation of 30% of a gross income of $35,000 per year is not realistic. Review United Way’s ALICE survival budget for the full picture of affordability. Further, a one-bedroom apartment, at best, houses a couple, but not a family. 

So if we consider more realistic data that suggests, conservatively, a family of three to four people and calculate costs such as child care, transportation, technology, credit-card and student-loan debt and more, then we have something against which to determine “affordable.”

Construction prices are skyrocketing, coupled with inflation, so costs will climb, but there’s another way to offset these and simultaneously lower rental and home-purchase costs for Door County’s residents, keeping our community vibrant.

Door County increased its lodging revenue by $38 million in 2021 [“Lodging Revenue Up $38 Million in 2021”], so it’s almost obscene that not one penny goes to affordable housing unless a municipality funds it. One-third is distributed among municipalities, but they need it to maintain increasing infrastructure demands. The rest returns to be invested in promoting local tourism, which I believe is unnecessary to this extent. A state law mandates this distribution, but we vote for our representatives, so we have the power to change state law. 

A change in this legislation, allocating just 5% to affordable housing would still mean 61%, or $36 million, is allocated to tourism promotion in Door County alone. At 5%, more than $2 million would be allocated to affordable housing. That might mean that “affordable” starts at $600 per month, and even home ownership might be attainable. 

Remember the American dream? Our year-round residents should have that opportunity right here in Door County.

Diana Wallace

Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin