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Study reveals solutions to improve housing affordability, lawmakers express concerns

MADISON (WKOW) — At a committee hearing Monday, housing officials warned lawmakers Wisconsin can’t keep up with the demand for affordable housing. 

A new study “Falling Behind” was conducted by Wisconsin Realtors Association which reveals the state has the highest percentage of low-income renters who are cost-burdened in the Midwest.

The author of the study, Kurt Paulsen, testified in front of lawmakers on the Committee on Housing and Real Estate on Monday. He said regardless of ethnicity, thousands are unable to afford their living situations and it’s getting worse.

“These are several cost burden households, and as we all know if you have to spend 50 percent of your income on housing costs it doesn’t leave a lot for transportation, daycare, health care, school supplies,” said Paulsen.

The study shows this is happening because construction costs are rising faster than inflation and incomes, along with a decline in people buying homes, especially the younger generation. The association also found things like outdated land regulations are driving up costs.

“If you work in a community we believe you should be able to live in your community,” said Paulsen.

He offered some solutions to committee members such as additional housing choices with diverse housing stock, offering state tax credits to refurbish older homes and offering apprenticeship programs for displaced workers. 

State Representative John Jagler (R-Watertown) said he has some concerns about some statewide solutions because he worries it would interfere with local control over the housing market.

Robin Sereno, the executive Director of the Tenant Resource Center in Madison, disagrees because they believe housing affordability is not just a problem in Dane and Milwaukee County.

“Right now pricing is forcing many people out and it’s not strictly low-income individuals but also seniors who are being priced out of their homes,” said Sereno. 

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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