The Door County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved funding for separate efforts to address affordable housing and child care needs in the community.
The initiatives, totalling $847,000, are part of the county government’s use of the more than $5.3 million it is allocated under the American Rescue Plan, a 2021 federal Covid relief law.
They include $500,000 in support for a revolving loan fund that would incentivize developers to build affordable housing and $347,000 toward a partnership with United Way of Door County to bolster at-home child care options.
Both proposals were first presented to the County Board in January and are part of a broad plan for the federal funding that the board passed in February. That plan allocated $1.2 million in total for affordable housing efforts and $1.2 million for health and human services initiatives, including child care.
The board approved both proposals by votes of 20-0. Supervisor David Enigl was absent.
Increasing affordable housing
The revolving loan fund will be administered by a new entity, the Workforce Housing Lending Corporation, that has been created by the Door County Community Foundation and NeighborWorks Green Bay, a northeastern Wisconsin housing nonprofit.
It could help to fund the construction of 700 affordable housing units over the next 20 years, according to a NeighborWorks estimate.
It has received $1.5 million in funding from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), which will be matched by the county’s $500,000 and $1 million from Community Foundation fundraising to create an initial funding pool of $3 million.
County Land Use Services director Mariah Goode, a leader of the effort to create the corporation, and NeighborWorks president and CEO Noel Halvorsen spoke at the meeting. Halvorsen also is the CEO of the new corporation.
One of the goals of the revolving loan fund is to incentivize developers who otherwise would build purely “market-rate” housing to include affordable units in those developments, Halvorsen said.
“Healthy projects and healthy neighborhoods have a mix of incomes,” Halvorsen said.
“One of the primary challenges for us is that it’s so much easier for developers to just build for profit and take whatever the market will bear,” he added.
The funds from WHEDA must be used for income-restricted housing that serves people making, at most, 80 percent of the “area median income” of Door County, Goode said. That income amount is determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Workforce Development, she said.
Door County is lacking units with rents from $750 to $1,000, Goode told the county finance committee last week when it was reviewing the proposal.
The new corporation intends to continue to seek out new sources of funding in order to grow the revolving loan fund, Halvorsen said.
Half of the new corporation’s board will be appointed by the Community Foundation, and half will be appointed by NeighborWorks.
Bolstering at-home child care providers
The partnership with United Way includes county support for a child care coordinator position at United Way. The county is funding half the cost of that position for three years.
In part through that position, United Way and the county will focus on improving child care options in Door County by bolstering at-home child care providers.
The proposal calls for startup and expansion grants for at-home providers and encouraging at-home providers to become accredited.
Becoming accredited also can open doors for providers to receive additional support, county Health and Human services deputy director Coir McFarlane has said. That can include subsidy payments through a state program called Wisconsin Cares that can make child care more affordable for families by offsetting part of the cost.
The proposal also calls for focusing on professional development for child care providers.
Door County has approximately 800 children under 4 years old and only 243 slots in registered and accredited child care centers, according to the proposal document outlining the partnership.