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 firstname.lastname@example.org.