For almost two years, the Door County Community Foundation convened groups of local business leaders, housing developers, government officials, and ordinary citizens to identify new approaches to address our significant shortage of affordable workforce housing. Rather than create another government program that requires ongoing funding, our goal was to use targeted incentives to create a market-based solution to this problem. The effort was led by the following Design Team with support from local government planning professionals:
Bret Bicoy, Door County Community Foundation, Convenor
Steve Jenkins, Door County Economic Development Corporation
David Lienau, Chair, Door County Board of Supervisors
David Ward, Mayor, City of Sturgeon Bay
Noel Halvorsen, NeigborWorks Green Bay
Colleen Homb, Lakeshore CAP
David Eliot, Peninsula Publishing & Distribution
James Honig, Shepherd of the Bay
Erich Pfeifer, Marine Travelift
Michele Notz, Good Samaritan Society
Sarah Bonevich, Doneff Companies
Marissa Downs, Mosaic Ventures
Professional Staff Support
Mariah Goode, Door County Land Use Services Department
Rebecca Kerwin, Door County Land Use Services Department
Marty Olejniczak, Sturgeon Bay Community Development Department
Chris Sullivan-Robinson, Sturgeon Bay Community Development Department
Central to the plans developed was a new workforce affordable housing corporation that was to be governed by the Community Foundation in partnership with the non-profit NeighborWorks Green Bay. This new corporation, the Workforce Housing Lending Corporation (WHLC), will provide financial incentives for developers to build rental units that are within the price range of Door County’s working families.
The loans that will be offered by WHLC were designed collaboratively by private housing developers, non-profit affordable housing experts, and government officials. Actual Door County development projects that were built, and those that failed to come to fruition, served as the testing ground for potential terms as we tweaked interest rates, repayment options, amortization schedules, and other details. Each individual loan WHLC makes will be a relatively small percentage of the total financing for any particular housing project, but our loans will offer a key incentive for private developers to build units in Door County rather than other communities.
In December 2021, the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) approved an investment of $1.5 million in the WHLC loan program.
Door County is required to match the WHEDA investment by raising at least $1.5 million in local money, thereby creating an initial loan pool of $3 million. Yet our plans go well beyond that. Ultimately, over time our intent is to raise another $2 million beyond what is required by the WHEDA match so that Door County can benefit from a $5 million loan pool to stimulate the construction of affordable workforce housing.
The Community Foundation committed the first $125,000 to the effort and the County of Door approved a contribution of $500,000. Additional resources will come from the generous people of Door County.
Future plans call for homeownership assistance programs, down payment assistance programs, housing rehabilitation loans, and other financial products that foster affordable housing in Door County.