Friday, December 12, 2008

41% Of Waukesha County Workers Can't Afford Housing There

There is this blurb online from The Freeman (longer version only available to subscribers) about just how pressing is the need for affordable housing in Waukesha County.

Four questions before the text:

1. Why is Waukesha County balking at joining a regional transit authority?

2. How thick are the blinders at the Waukesha County-based regional planning commission (SEWEPC), which has balked at writing a regional housing plan since 1975?

3. Why should Milwaukee sell water to Waukesha County communities if economic development and housing starts there continue to be at the upper end, thus pushing affordable housing to other communities and counties, such as Milwaukee?

4. Shouldn't the US Justice Department come into the region and do a comprehensive review of SEWRPC and Waukesha County spending, programs and policy-making (transit, transportation, housing, zoning, water distribution, etc.), given the apartheid-like behavior of these bodies and their relationships to low-income, urban and other regional residents of color?

From The Freeman:

Report: Waukesha County needs
more affordable housing
5:58 a.m.


WAUKESHA - It is a startling statistic: 41 percent of Waukesha County’s work force lives outside of the county because of a lack of affordable housing. This statistic is what drove more than a dozen people to speak out Thursday night at a public hearing on the county’s proposed comprehensive development plan, asking that it do more to address the need for affordable housing


Anonymous said...

I think this points to another problem. If 41% of the employees in Waukesha can't live there then that puts hundreds of cars on the road... hmm sprawl = traffic.

James Rowen said...

Which is why it's ridiculous that a) Waukesha County won't join the RTA, and b) won't help extend Milwaukee County transit into Waukesha.

Anonymous said...

This is essentially the testimony I provided at the Public Hearing on December 11 regarding WAukesha's Housing Element:

Smart Growth Testimony – Waukesha County
December 11, 2008

In my role a housing expert and advocate in metropolitan Milwaukee, I was asked to be a part of the Waukesha county smart growth sub-committee charged with creating the housing element.

The state of Wisconsin smart growth law established several goals for comprehensive plans; the gaol most relevant to the housing element is the following:

“Providing an adequate supply of affordable housing for all income levels in the community.”

In the year and a half in which we were meeting to create the housing element as well as the transportation and land use elements, I regularly brought up issues important to ensuring that the goal of “Providing an adequate supply of affordable housing for all income levels in the community” was met, such as: determining the need for affordable housing, properly defining affordable housing, providing recommendation that the county could implement, etc.

Our dialogue addressed both the need for affordable housing as well as the challenges in providing affordable housing.


The intermediate projection developed by SEWRPC for the number of households within the County in 2035 is 174,100. Projecting that the County continues to have a similar percentage of households (46.61%) that are extremely low, very low, low, and moderate income will result in a total of 81,218 households in the following categories:

• 15,164 households or 8.7 are projected to be extremely low income
• 23,226 households or 13.3 percent are projected to be very low income
• 25,418 households or 14.6 percent are projected to be low income
• 17,410 households or 10.0 percent are projected to be moderate income

This is roughly 64,000 low income, very low income and extremely low income households.

• Land is costly, limited financing resources
• Regulatory barriers, minimum lot sizes etc.
• Home rule – limitations on the county’s ability

The resulting housing recommendations will do nothing to address those challenges.

The most frequent reason given for the weak recommendations is home rule – the county can’t force municipalities within its borders to do anything…which is true to a point. But I suggest they could do more – but won’t.

For instance
The County should work with municipalities to study the feasibility of an affordable housing trust fund to assist in meeting the projected employment housing needs. In terms of implementation - this means nothing! Why won’t the county “work with local housing advocates and developers to create a HTF to assist in meeting the projected employment housing needs.”?

The other recommendations include terminology that has the County

1. studying the potential,
2. encouraging,
3. examining,
4. supporting, promoting
5. and educating

All important things BUT - How many units for those 64,000 projected low income households will be created by studying, encouraging, examining, supporting, and promoting?

The County needs to take the Housing Element back to the drawing board to develop real recommendations that will create the needed housing. We are in an era in which we need real leadership to help our communities move forward – that’s what the smart growth movement was intended to be.

The last thing I wanted to address is perhaps my biggest regret on this committee. I should have and didn’t address the big elephant in the room. I thought if we just created some good policy for affordable and workforce housing, the elephant didn’t need to be moved. Regretfully, I didn’t want to make the group of all white, mostly men uncomfortable.

Waukesha County and its historic and present policy is part of the reason that no other metro area in the COUNTRY has as white of suburbs as this metro area. No other metro area in the country!

The day the housing element was finalized, with no strong, meaningful recommendations, sadly I was the sole NO vote on our subcommittee. I walked out of our meeting with a couple of planners that work for a couple of the County’s municipalities, also on the subcommittee. They informed me that there was no way that this committee would have come up with meaningful recommendations. The leaders of these communities, the communities that make up Waukesha County, their elected officials just don’t want multi-family housing. Multi family housing I was told equates to African American residents. Then they each relayed a story from their specific jurisdictions where they’re Mayor, or elected leader, prevented multifamily housing from being built in their community for that very reason – racism. I have a Master of Urban Planning and understand how planning works. I fear that what occurred in this housing element was less about sound planning and more about politics!

I realize the one advantage that I have in this testimony, is that I don’t have to fear losing my job to stand up for what is right and just. Again I am asking that staff take this plan back to the committee, and that committee needs to COURAGEOUSLY stand up to its elected officials for good planning, which includes housing affordable to its workforce and most vulnerable.

Kori Schneider-Peragine
Senior Administrator
Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council

James Rowen said...

Kori: Thank you for the comment. I have copied and posted it as a separate item, also.