Wisconsin is in dire need of more housing to meet the current demands as well as future demands as the state’s workforce continues to grow, says Mark Eppli, who is with the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate at the Wisconsin School of Business.
Eppli was the keynote speaker at the WPS Workforce Housing & Development Conference Wednesday at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The event featured two other speakers in addition to Eppli – Jason Vangalis of Ady Advantage and author Alonzo Kelly – and nine 20×20 presentations where presenters had 20 seconds to speak for each of their 20 sides. Topics ranged from new workforce housing opportunities through WHEDA and economic development homesteading to the one-year extension of TIFs for housing development and creating a new urban model for attracting and retaining employees.
Affordable, quality housing is necessary to help the economy grow, Eppli says. He adds that a lack of affordable, quality housing also makes it more challenging for businesses to recruit workers.
“There are crazy good numbers nationally for employment, but Wisconsin is not keeping up with national numbers because we don’t have enough workers. And why don’t we have enough workers? They have no place to live,” Eppli says.
“Wisconsin does not have enough housing,” he says. “In the coming decade, there will be a need for 1.5 million housing units and they won’t necessarily be homes. Changing demographics mean there are different housing needs.”
For example, the millennials, as a whole, are marrying and buying homes later.
“It’s part of that demand for more multi-family housing,” Eppli says.
Married couples own 75 percent of all homes, but less than 50 percent of all U.S. households have a married couple. Instead, there are more people living alone or a single parent with children and those people want something else besides a single-family home, Eppli says.
“Whether it’s apartments, condos or a single-family home rented out – those are what these people are looking for and there’s clearly not enough,” he says.
The housing crisis, which forced millions of Americans into foreclosure, also changed the housing landscape, Eppli says. Most of those people will never own homes again and many of their homes were purchased by investors who now rent them out.
“Seven million homes have gone from owner-occupied to renter-occupied in the past decade,” he says.
There are several barriers in the way to create more housing, including that it’s more challenging for financial institutions to lend money for developers to buy land for their housing projects, Eppli says.
“This conference is a great thing since you are bringing people together to discuss possible solutions and finding ways to create more quality, affordable housing,” he says.