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Rural communities could see housing surge to help workforce shortage

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Despite Wisconsin’s low unemployment rate, the state's housing and economic development agency said rural counties are struggling to fill jobs because of a housing shortage. 

A proposal up for a vote Tuesday in the Assembly aims to change that. The bill would allow the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to distribute $10 million of its surplus to rural communities that have housing challenges.

To apply, communities would be evaluated and have to demonstrate a need, such as showing a housing study to be approved. 

The pilot program would allow 63 rural counties to apply, excluding Dane, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, Kenosha, Winnebago, Outagamie, Brown, and Eau Claire. According to the USDA, these counties were identified to have at least 25 percent of their population rural.

Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) said communities could build additional housing or refurbish older buildings. 

“In Marinette, there's a lot of homes that are pre-1940 that are in a rundown condition which the younger generation isn't necessarily interested in, so it's an opportunity for us to rehab those houses, provide something they're looking for," he said.

The topic of workforce shortage was requested by GOP leadership to be addressed in Governor Tony Evers State of the State Address Wednesday night.

However, when asked, Evers told 27 News he’ll be focusing on “what I want to talk about,” which he said a month ago was mental health, gun reform, and economic development.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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