Our committee has been making a strong effort to inform the Waukesha County community of the need for workforce housing for the past two years. Only 59% of our workforce actually live in our county. Many still struggle to pay mortgages and rent because of the lack of affordable housing. We actively support and endorse Waukesha County Affordable Housing Task Force in their efforts to establish a Housing Trust Fund for the county. This would assure an ongoing financial source needed for a commitment to build workforce / affordable housing in our community.
The Workforce Housing Task Force (WHTF) will begin to promote the benefits of a trust fund by contacting the county’s largest employers. Most employers are already aware of the advantage of their employees living near the workplace. Before the year’s end, we will be sending letters inviting employers to meet and discuss support for workforce housing. We can now share the soon to be proposed EAH (Employer Assisted Housing) tax credit. This would be a “tax credit” up to $10,000 for businesses that contribute to housing the workforce. This new legislation will be proposed by Senator Lena Taylor (potentially in Jan. 2010). Our committee, on behalf of SOPHIA, encouraged the senator to amend her proposal to include contributions to “qualified housing trust funds”. Recognizing the benefit to the entire state, she agreed, making her proposed legislation a landmark opportunity to build financial support from the “private sector” for all Housing Trust Funds! As we build more committee membership, WHTF, coordinating with other housing groups in our community, plans to continue contacting other employers in our county to promote the support of the Housing Trust Fund.
Our November meeting was well attended and I am grateful and appreciative of those who were able to come and support our cause. We were blessed to have two special guests at this meeting, Ms. Bernie Juno of Hebron House and Sen. Lena Taylor (Milwaukee). WHTF recently participated in study group to analyze the need for an overflow shelter for homeless in Waukesha this winter. (SOPHIA aided in the successful support of Bernie Juno’s efforts getting a one-time only conditional-use permit from the Plan Commission to use St. Matthias Episcopal Church as a “temporary shelter” last year.) Once again she convinced the BID board to grant the permit. At our committee meeting, Ms. Juno announced her desire for our support in their continuing efforts to build affordable housing in Waukesha. They plan to build a 10 unit rental on Summit Ave. and we will again be present at City Hall early next year! Hebron House also is looking into developing a multi-unit affordable rental building in Oconomowoc soon. WHTF is committed to partnering projects in any way to promote workforce / affordable housing.
Senator Taylor encouraged us to contact our “local” elected officials to gain support for her “tax credit” proposal as well as the Housing Trust Fund. She acknowledged the value of WISDOM since her new legislation is “state wide”. We will share information with the other WISDOM housing task forces.
It is our plan to organize a “housing forum” involving all housing organizations in Waukesha County sometime early next year. As always, I invite you to come and support this important community issue.
Don Johnson – Chairperson, Workforce Housing Task Force 262.613.0061