The affordable housing crisis is worse than we thought
And data shows it might actually be an income problem
Nearly half of all Wausonians — 48%, to be exact — barely make ends meet.
It’s a sobering statistic in a city that often touts itself as affordable. That number reduces to nearly 29% when looking at Marathon County as a whole, which is still nearly a third of all residents.
Ben Lee of the United Way presented that information to the members of the newly created Affordable Housing Task Force recently. Candidates running for city council cited affordable housing as a key concern. And some members of the city council have been pointing out for some time that while the city has been courting high-end (or market rate) apartments for downtown and beyond, affordable housing options are diminishing.
It’s something The Wausonian has been looking at too. We brought you news that the East High Apartments, which had received tax incentives in exchange for including affordable units, is transitioning completely to market rate apartments. When we wrote that story, there were 430 units “HUD official” affordable apartments. The removal of the East High Apartments will count for 10% of those.
What is affordable housing? It’s not always easy to define, since it depends on the income of the household renting or buying housing. A good rule of thumb is that a household should spend no more than 30% of its income on housing. That includes utilities and the like as well.
When you look at those numbers, nearly half of households in the entire county don’t meet that threshold, Lee reports. As many as 40% don’t have enough in their savings account to cover three months of expenses.
Those statistics are sobering, to be sure. And we haven’t even looked at the actual housing yet.
It gets so much worse.
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