May 29, 2022

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Dodge County housing grant approved, expertise could boost affordable housing efforts | Daily Citizen

3 min read

JUNEAU — A state grant will help aid a local initiative to attract affordable housing to the area.

The $50,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) will pair with $75,000 from local sources to provide engineering and consulting services to aid in that process. Thrive Economic Development took the lead in the grant-writing process. Thrive Managing Director Deb Reinbold told the county’s Executive Committee about the positive news on Monday.

Thrive ED represents Dodge and Jefferson counties in economic development matters. Thrive’s contract to provide business attraction and recruitment services for Dodge County will expire in May, with in-house efforts to take their place. Thrive will help coordinate consultants in implementing the WEDC grant independent from its contract with Dodge County.

Consulting firms that will be involved include Cedar Corp. and Movin’ Out.

According to the overview from Thrive, “The state of Wisconsin is experiencing a housing shortage for many well-documented reasons. The shortage is even more pronounced, particularly for attainable workforce housing, in rural Wisconsin. For small (less than 30,000 residents) municipalities, the options are fewer and attracting housing developments is a greater challenge. Employers want to see more attainable workforce housing units built in their community of residence, to retain workers, to reduce turnover rates and to attract new workers. Business needs workers, workers need housing, and everyone wins if the lack of housing/living units issue can be resolved.”

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In addition to the WEDC grant, Watertown Community Health Foundation has committed $40,000 to the developer recruitment plan. A total of $17,500 from each county was also provided.

“We applied for this grant to assist communities to meet their housing needs,” said Reinbold. “They are all eligible to apply for the services that we’re offering through this grant. It’s a $125,000 pool to help communities figure out where housing would best be suited and whatever type of housing is most needed. Our engineering firms and other experts will help them out wherever they need it, whether it’s determining a location or sending out a request for proposals to developers.”

A housing needs study completed by UW-Whitewater is working in conjunction with the pilot program, dubbed the Heartland Housing Initiative, to focus needs with potential resources. If this pilot program is successful it may be replicated throughout the state.

“Thrive ED proposes to address housing concerns by working with an expert housing development consulting team to provide development-focused services to municipalities across Dodge and Jefferson counties,” said Thrive ED President Victoria Pratt. “I can assure you from the meetings Deb and I have with municipalities — and from conversations about community meetings — that many of the municipalities in Dodge County want help.”

A resolution to support the grant application was approved by the full County Board on Oct. 19, 2021. The application was submitted to WEDC before the end of October. Emails are being sent by Thrive to area municipalities and county board members announcing the opportunity and inviting them to participate or to pass the information on to those who might use it.

Communities have until April 29 to apply. First round recipients will be announced May 6.

“It’s an excellent opportunity to utilize the expertise of everyone involved,” said Reinbold. “We’re trying to get the word out as much as we can.”

For more information visit www.thriveed.org.

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