The Housing Market Study

The lack of available and affordable rental housing is acknowledged as a statewide, and even a nationwide problem, by most outlets in 2019. The problem is present even here in the City of Fort Atkinson.

Baker Tilly Virchow Krause (usually best known as “Baker Tilly”), recently completed a Housing Market Assessment Study, which focused on the availability of affordable rental units targeted to seniors and low-to-mid income residents. The study was commissioned by the city, and sponsored by the Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation.

The study found that there is an immediate need for approximately 200 more rental units in the City of Fort Atkinson. Current vacancy rates for this time of housing in the city’s Primary Market Area were identified as averaging less than one percent. The need was split as follows:

Section 42 Family: 65 units

Section 42 Senior: 40 units

Market Rate: 95 units


Example of a sign seen much too infrequently in Fort Atkinson lately.

The study identified three prime areas for construction of multifamily rental housing. The key areas were the K-Mart plaza area, an area near the Fort Atkinson High School, and a site to the north of Fort Atkinson Memorial Hospital.

Now that we know this is a concrete need in our community, what can we do about it?

In order to make the numbers work financially for construction of this type of housing, developers usually need a mixture of incentives. This could be a combination of tax credits from WHEDA, in conjunction with TIF (Tax Increment Financing) funds, or other local assistance. Larger communities, such as the City of Madison, can sometimes offer subsidies from a housing fund.

Personally, I believe this is a challenge that our city can meet. We can’t wait around for outside assistance to do the work for us. We need to identify individuals in the community we can work with, in order to get some of this necessary development going. While the city currently does not have a housing fund, we can possibly create assistance through TIF in certain areas. Baker Tilly also discussed the use of Requests for Proposal, which could possibly be used to attract developers to these types of projects.

If we want the city to continue growing, if we want to attract and retain younger workers and families, and if we want seniors to be able to remain living in our community, we need to address this glaring problem.

Please share any thoughts you may have with me on this important subject. You can leave a comment here, or email me at




7 thoughts on “The Housing Market Study

  1. C Holt March 7, 2019 / 10:13 am

    Mason – I’m guessing study identified ideal range of apartment rental rates?
    just an FYI…one person that I know of who cannot find an adequate rental is in the following situation:
    **Willing to pay $750
    **Single mom with school age child and cat
    **Looking for 2 bedroom but not what is considered (stigmatized) as the low-income Section 8 housing.
    Not sure how many specific study cases report identified (i.e. young adults, single parents, retirees, etc). Love the idea of working with city and developers to make the former Kmart plan a reality. Perhaps the land/buildings could be a joint venture between housing/retial and community use so that funding that supports non-profits/community need could be combined with the developer and city investment. Hope this helps Cynthia

    • Mason T. Becker March 8, 2019 / 7:09 am

      Hi Cynthia. There was a large range identified depending on size of the rental unit and percentage of income. The case you cite would definitely fall into the range that was identified as a need to address. I agree it will need to be a partnership between the city and developers to likely make such developments happen.

  2. Real Janesville March 7, 2019 / 10:21 pm

    I’m always fascinated by these studies. What does it mean, “The study was commissioned by the city, and sponsored by the Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation.” Who paid for it?

    Usually in the private sector, a study showing demand for something would be a well-guarded secret so as not to give competitors unearned knowledge of said market. In the public sector, a study showing market demand should typically attract businesses involved in those activities to grow their portfolio. So, I don’t understand how we leap into TIF Districts, incentives, subsidies snd partnerships from here. From what direction is the pursuit for housing? From government?

    • Mason T. Becker March 7, 2019 / 10:25 pm

      Hi Real Janesville. When I said, sponsored by, I indeed meant that those two entities paid for it. The Chamber of Commerce has a vested interest in figuring out the housing needs of potential and current employees for their members.

  3. Jim Marousis March 8, 2019 / 10:15 am

    Mason, thanks for your leadership in the city and the emails letting us know about information like the housing study. I moved to Fort a little over 2 years ago, and have found it to be a vibrant city, with people who not only have ideas and questions about what they would like life in the Fort community to look like, but are also willing to talk and exchange ideas in the process of developing the best ways to act in order to shape our community. Again, thanks for your open leadership! Jim Marousis

  4. Karen Reinhardt March 23, 2019 / 1:07 pm

    This may be thinking way too “outside the box” for Fort Atkinson, but couldn’t we look at other cities who have developed tiny house communities? One of the things missing in our culture today is “connection with others.” This would create a community of families who would be connected with one another and in turn connect and participate in various city and county organizations as well.
    I think it’s also more sustainable and dignified than “subsidized housing developments.”
    Karen Reinhardt

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