WHEDA Invites Community Participation to Kick Off Rural Workforce Housing Initiative

Webinar and comment options available prior to application launch

Rural community leaders, employers, affordable housing providers, developers, lenders, planners, policy makers and residents are invited to learn more and provide final input prior to the launch of the competitive application process for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority’s rural affordable workforce housing pilot.

A webinar to explain the pilot and larger rural affordable workforce housing initiative will be held July 13 at 1 p.m. Information about the initiative including public comment options can be found here; registration for the free webinar is available here.


The pilot will work with stakeholders from at least three rural communities to develop partnerships and processes that ultimately will benefit communities statewide. Participants at listening sessions organized by WHEDA cited many factors contributing to Wisconsin’s shortage of rural, affordable workforce housing including rising construction costs, limited developer interest due to the smaller scale of rural projects; aging housing stock; few affordable rental options; zoning, infrastructure challenges; and limited financing for new construction and renovation projects.  

“The complexity of Wisconsin’s rural affordable workforce housing shortage defies easy solutions,” said WHEDA CEO Joaquín Altoro. “If Wisconsin is to thrive, rural communities require supportive policies, players and practices to develop affordable workforce housing. Through the pilot process, WHEDA intends to bring people together to identify barriers and establish shared priorities to move forward.”

WHEDA has committed $10 million to the rural affordable workforce housing initiative, which includes the pilot effort and supplemental financing tools. The initiative is to be funded from the 2019-20 Dividends for Wisconsin Plan and other available funding sources.

The supplemental financing tools are designed to better serve rural communities by overcoming gaps in existing programs. These tools, which will be rolled out over time, include:

  • Closing cost assistance and rehabilitation financing for single family homebuyers in rural communities;
  • Multifamily housing gap financing to make up for the difference between construction costs and affordable rents in rural areas;
  • Small business and economic development loans; and
  • Community grants and services.

To help target assistance where it is needed most, in consultation with elected officials and others, communities eligible for the pilot must be within a county in which more than 25 percent of the county’s residents reside in a rural area under standards established by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The July 13 webinar will cover the application process, close-to-final scoring methods and anticipated timelines for the rural affordable workforce housing pilot. The discussion also will explain the need for communities to apply with a diverse team of stakeholders to demonstrate geographic, demographic, public and private collaboration.

Consistent with the stakeholder-driven nature of the pilot, the July 13 webinar and final comment period that runs through July 17 are intended to answer questions and iron out any unanticipated issues before the application goes live on July 22. Applications will be due Aug. 31 with participating communities announced in early October.

Additional information regarding the rural initiative, supplemental financing and economic development tools will be made available in the weeks ahead as WHEDA continues to adapt and innovate to address changing community needs.