Join Community Conversations on Saturday, April 8, from 12:00 noon to 1:45 PM at the Menomonie Public Library for a discussion about housing.  It appears that the number 1 concern in Menomonie and across the country is the ability to find affordable and adequate housing.  Individuals and families are paying more than 30% of their income for housing.  Workers can’t find available housing in the communities where they work.

We will have 4 speakers address the issues of housing.  Padraig Gallagher, Director of Stepping Stones, will discuss his homeless shelter and the problems his clients have in finding permanent housing.  Mayor Randy Knaack has had a goal to build small homes and will discuss this strategy to supply housing for workers and young adults.  Mike Brandt, a former developer in New York State, will provide some “out of the box” solutions for our housing crisis.  We are delighted to have Vince Hague join in this conversation with his expertise in manufactured homes. Join us for this discussion to add your questions and comments about housing.  

A machine-generated transcript of the meeting follows - it will have some inaccurate transcriptions.


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Padraig Gallagher, Steve Hogseth, Randy Knaack, Luisa Gerasimo, Michael Brandt, Vince Hague, Lorene Vedder, Sandy Whit

Lorene Vedder 01:58

Okay, we have the great pleasure to have two more of these community conversations this spring, and one is going to be in two weeks, and then one is going to be four weeks. So the one in four weeks, I'll give you that right now is George and from why you would have Wisconsin added to a man is about overturning United Citizens United, which is a law of the overflow of dark money and politics, enhance its corrupting influence on our elected representatives. So that's what we're going to do in a month. In two weeks, Steve Hogseth has a group called Health Dunn Right. And he has HEAT,, which stands for a healthy environment Action Team, which he's on. And he has developed a program to present you in two weeks, which will be April 22. And I'll send you an email about that. So you know about these two presentations. But I want Steve to talk to you about the county's Environmental Services Department, which is headed by Chase Cummings, who will do the presentation. And there'll be at the Rassbach museum as we normally have this, this building once a month. So Steve?

Steve Hogseth 03:17

Sure. Thank you. Yeah, as Lorene mentioned, I'm sure you're all familiar with Health Dunn Right? It's KT Gallagher, was instrumental in getting that going to people. And out of that came five independent teams to make Dunn County Health Committee. And one of those groups is a healthy Environmental Action Team. Steve Hanson in the back of the room is a member of that. Sandy White is a member. Are there any others? Just not that you're well done another hill. Great. Very, thank you for everybody who is helping support them in some way. They just want to talk a little bit about this upcoming program. The pandemic really kind of set us back we wanted to get more community involvement, interaction and collaboration. And so we have been trying to do that we've been struggling quite soft because of the pandemic. Well, one of the events that we are going to have evolved from one of our recent meetings is Chase Cummings is the conservationist for Dunn, county, land and water conservation. And he is a member of our HEAT team, healthy Environmental Action Team. And so when Chase agreed to give a presentation, and during the meeting, I said, Well, you know, a good place would be community conversations here in libraries. So I talked with Murray, and his marine just mentioned, the library is not always available. So we went to Plan B, we want to get this in the spring, what to Plan B talk with the prospect Museum. For it's going to be held at the Rock prospect Museum, two weeks from today at 10am. And there will be communications, marine will send communications using the nominee minute, we have three, four or five different ways we can communicate this. So if you get an email, you may want to spread the word dear friends as well. And it's a chance for people to learn about what the Dunn County land and conservation group does. And it just so happened that it was Earth Day, because he's going to be held. So what a better springboard to have this, let's just that wasn't by design, that was just my schedule. So we're going to kind of make that a little bit of a footnote Earth event and collaboration between health dunrite, namely that the heat team is part of the community conversations. So I just gave a paper to the front desk here at the library and asked them to put it up or the start communicating that we hope you can make it. Thank you.

Lorene Vedder 06:59

Okay, now we are going about going to talk about this topic of a housing crisis. And I have four wonderful people that will be talking to you about their expertise. And I think the last Mike, this is my husband, Mike Brandt.. And then we have our American AG. And we have Podraig Gallagher, and we have been take. So we're very, very appreciative that you all came to talk to speak with us, and we'll see which microphones work the best. And we may have to pass this one around. So they're all they're hooked in, but they didn't seem to Well, we'll see how well they work. We'll see how well they work. And Mike is hard to hearing. So really, he may ask people to repeat what they say. And when you ask questions, maybe repeat what those questions are, as you're answering them when we ask questions later. Okay, well, we'll start right now with Audrey, I would want to take the lead Podrick I'll have Podrick sit right here.

Padraig Gallagher 08:17

Excellent. Thank you for being here for this important discussion. This is certainly a crucial topic right now, in this community in a lot of communities here in the area. The reason I'm here as executive director of stepping stones of Dunn County is to speak to an need, which might be a little bit unique. But it's very related to the other topics that will be spoken about here. Having to do with housing, stepping stones of Dunn County has been operating the only general population emergency shelter for folks experiencing homelessness in Dunn County since the mid 90s. And the program has grown significantly along with the need, and thankfully the support of the community. But what I want to do is just kind of describe the situation of the people in the that we are seeing and describe what our program currently is, the ways that it's changing, and maybe give you a better understanding of parts of your community that you might not see unless you're really looking for it. So let's start at the state level, that sometimes numbers convey things that target the heart and I think this is one of them. For every 100 low income households in the state of Wisconsin, there are only 36 units of affordable housing. That is a state fact as far as the level of income that people can spend And the cost of housing being above 30%. So almost two thirds of folks who are low income have to spend more than 30% of their take home pay on just basic shelter. And this is a problem that's not getting better. It's in fact trending the other way. Now here in Dunn County as the only general population, emergency shelter, we have seen the shelter nights that we provide to folks that are struggling with homelessness go from 4500 shelter nights in 2019. So a shelter night is, you can think about it as the number of times ahead hits a pillow, right. So our program provided 4500 shelter nights in 2019. In 2022, we provided just shy of 11,000 shelter beds. So we've more than doubled the service that we provide to the community in these very short, albeit troubled years that we've had between 2019. And now, what's even more striking about that is that we've never met even half of the need that's presented to us. So we've had waitlists always that are longer, more households on those wait lists, and the number of households that we actually have in shelter. So there is some significant need in the community right now. And to give you a better understanding of the folks who are seeking assistance of those 11,000 shelter nights we provided last year 58% clear majority went to people whose last established residence was in the city of Menominee. Oftentimes, when folks hear about somebody who's struggling with homelessness, there's an image and kind of a backstory that they think of, of somebody who's passing through, right, somebody from somewhere else, and they're heading somewhere else, these aren't members of our community. This is somebody else, it's easy to other that way, and to not really understand that these are your neighbors. In every sense, they used to be your neighbor, and in most senses, they still are your neighbor. Two thirds of the folks that we provide shelter to are from Dunn County. And of the 1/3 that are from outside of Dunn County, and the vast majority of those are from areas immediately around Dunn County. So Sojourner House in Eau Claire, they have overflow, we have a lot of people from Eau Claire County, from Barron, from Chippewa, that kind of round that last number. This understanding of people struggling with homelessness as being from elsewhere, it's really one that I want to push back on. These are community members. So that's one thing to keep in mind. Another thing that I want to make clear, as I'm describing the numbers with our program is that right now, we have five shelter apartments. And we try to focus on couples and families that we put into those units. And we've had some limited, but limited in time, but pretty extensive as far as the generosity of the government grants to put people up in hotels. Those are sunsetting here at the end of the year. And we are putting about 20 households during the cold months up in hotels right now. Those grants are not budgeted for 2024. Now, that's what brings me to our description of how our services are going to change moving forward. We're currently building a new shelter focusing on individual adults struggling with homelessness. It's going to be a 20 bed facility. It's going to allow us to meet the numbers at the highest level that we've had in in shelter over the past two years, but we're going to be able to do a year round. And instead of people being isolated in hotels, they're going to be in with us with services with case management and we're going to be looking for area partners to bring services to the shelter to the people. It's going to be a 24 hour facility so folks aren't just Pouring out to the community in the morning. As soon as they come in a clock is going to start, we're going to have a to do list and we're going to work with to get to a better situation. And this is going to be a useful tool for the community. But it's not without controversy. And one of the things that I'd like to touch on right now in this forum is the way that a community reacts to a shelter coming to the community, there is always some degree of not in my backyard, that happens. And I want to just bring up some of the common misconceptions and pushback Some people give, and I want to respond to that in kind. One is the thought if you build it, they will come. If you build a shelter, folks are going to come and they're going to fill it up. Well, I just described to you the numbers that indicate those people, wonderful community members are already here, and they will fill it up. But people don't choose to be homeless or struggle with homelessness just because a shelter is available, right? That's not the way it works. And so if you hear those sorts of objections, I hope you're able to, you know, kind of share that reasoning behind it. Another pushback is oftentimes that property values will decline in the area immediately around a shelter. And there have been studies by the Urban Institute, among others that show that if shelter offers services, and 24/7 is open 24/7 property values do not decline in the area immediately around there. Similarly, the objection of crime going up, studies have shown if it's a 24 hour facility with services that welcome people and help them get to a better position, the only crime, statistically, that goes up is community on guest crime, not the other way around. So when you think about the need that's in the community, when you think about the ways that you can work, to help bring housing up to levels that need to be there, I want you to think about the safety net stepping stones, the people that are fallen to us, right, falling through affordable rentals, and affordable homeownership programs, transitional housing, they come to our services, and I want you to keep them in mind because they are absolutely your community members also. Thank you.

Randy Knaack 18:00

Oh, there's a question.


I was wondering, do you see some purpose in collaborating with Habitat for Humanity, essentially the next level?

Padraig Gallagher 18:10

Yes, and a broader community. Cooperation? Absolutely. But oftentimes, what Habitat for Humanity needs is a level of income, to be able to. Oftentimes, their programs are focused on folks who can afford housing, but instead of a rental, they're getting their own Hall, by, you know, through the sweat equity program and through through those sorts of models. Oftentimes, the people that fall to an emergency shelter, have got some work to do to get to the point where they can do that.

Randy Knaack 18:51

Learning or would you like to have to keep going down the line? Okay, Vince will be next. There was another question.


When you said the only private community to guests Did you mean like a community member meeting up to a gas

Padraig Gallagher 19:07

statistically, and I can get to this study, but statistically the only level of crime and this was an extensive study and five I believe shelters in the Denver area, but it wasn't just the inner city, it was more rural also parts of the city. The only level of crime that increased statistically was community members, crime against guests of the shelter if it wasn't the guests of the shelter, committing crimes and

Randy Knaack 19:39

any other questions for Padraig? Vince, I think you're next in line.

Vince Hague 19:44

Thank you for inviting me. I'm Vince Hague I own some mobile home parks in the area. And so I deal with low income people quite a bit. Most of them but not all of them and some people To the parks I have I have 155 tenants, and I own it, this might work Anyway, I have 155 tenants. And it's an interesting mix, because I get to see a wide variety of tenants or the third of my tenants are retired folks like yourself. About a third of them are, are young married women. Most almost all young married women, there are a few young married couple young men, young, unmarried women, there are women that have children. But they can't afford apartments, because three bedroom apartments are too darn expensive than when the kids get to be eight or nine years old, you need to split up. That's quite obvious. And so they're looking for three bedroom houses and the option that's available as a mobile home. Because most mobile homes have three bedrooms, there are exceptions, and most mobile homes rent for a lower value, at least I rent them for a lower value than what they would pay for apartments, generally about 75 or 80% of the cost of an apartment. And so I get a share of those folks, and they're good tenants. Most are working quite hard. They have very busy lives because they have children to take care of. And some of them have parents to take care of too. Because we all know who takes care of the old folks don't young folks. And so there's that and the other third is married people who have chosen to live in mobile homes for whatever reason. And many of those might have old, an older child with them. They might not. But they're they're between the ages of 30 and 60, or 65. So that's that's how they divide up. income wise, I have some very poor people in my parks, and I have some people that aren't supportive people that drive pretty darn nice cars. Mr. Carson, I grew up as a matter of fact,

Randy Knaack 22:19

but you're cheap

Vince Hague 22:24

doesn't pay me Well, that's the problem. Anyway, so it's quite a diverse group of people. And I was a bit befuddled, I didn't know what he meant by affordable housing. But I think I'm extending the idea better. And I think it's a good approach, because there are different problems to solve. But the problems you have in a mobile home park are very wide and they're not well focused, the problem we have with buying mobile homes, is they become very expensive, compared to what they used to be. And there are several reasons for that. Number one reason is in 2000, they passed, the Feds passed a code which said that you had to build better mobile homes. The mobile homes that they build today are essentially to the same standard that low, more cost, conventional housing is built six inch walls, thermal, thermal pane windows, and all the good things that those folks enjoy. And so that costs money. Also, everybody's greedy. We all know that. That's how our system works. And the manufacturers are greedy, and dealers are greedy, and everybody's greedy. So that pushes the cost. Right now in order to buy a new mobile home and set it on a lot in a mobile home park, you're gonna spend about 90 grand, that's a lot of money. And there just aren't many people that can afford that that want to buy mobile homes. The other problem we've had is financing in the past 20 years, that problem is being resolved. We now have some national original lenders who are lending on mobile homes, and there's even one lender in town who will lend on a mobile home. All the terms aren't true. It's rather difficult to borrow money from that lender, but their rates are competitive. The single biggest reason is mobile homes in parks don't qualify for FHA financing. You can't get government guaranteed financing on mobile home yet. I think that they may be coming I don't know when. But if that comes that will help a great deal. The interest rate on a new mobile home right now with a reasonable down payment will be in the neighborhood of nine, nine and a half percent for a regular house for a conventional house. It's gonna cost us six and a half or 7% for that same home. That makes the payment a lot bigger for somebody who doesn't have the money. And another another big reason is they don't Generally, a lot of the people that want to buy it is for something, don't have down payments. That's because they don't know much about saving for a down payment, they don't understand the game. And therein lies, a lot of our problem is the game. Because we had that game, and it's it's rules that we currently have, I don't know how you can change those, we have worked with them. And it's going to happen. I think there have to be a barrier. So those are the problems are gonna get better. It's always going to get better. And it will, because as it gets worse, there's going to be more demand politically for it to get better. I believe that I think we're on the edge of some big changes in this country, but on the cusp. And I think it's going to happen I think it's going to be a difficult trip. So, you know, that's where, you know, how do you how do you affect? You know, the future? What I don't know. I really don't know. So that I think is where we're at. That's as I see it

Randy Knaack 26:17

Good morning, everybody. Oh, afternoon. Good afternoon. Okay. So it's wakeup time. So I want you all to be thinking here about what is affordable housing, what it really is affordable housing, affordable housing to John his half million dollar house, no problem, you know, and half a million dollars to affordable housing to Robin might be, you know, served culture with a friend, somebody around. But but there are basically three types of affordable housing are three types of housing, you either have surf couching with a friend, sleeping, any trucker van, which a lot of people do, there's renting a place, or there's home owning owning your place. So you've got your own your place, you rent your place, and you don't have a place and you can make do with what that is. So you can go and buy a house. And you know, what's the cheapest house you can buy? I bet unless you're getting into a mobile home, like Ben said, I bet if you go to buy a house that's livable, you're looking at a couple 100,000 160, maybe 200,000 300,000. Now you're paying interest on that investment of 300,000. Plus you got utilities, plus you've got a water bill, and you've got insurance. And so by the time you get all done, it's a $300,000 home affordable for most people, not typically unless you've got a high paying job, a government job, a bankers job, something along those lines. So what we've been looking at is in the city of an avenue, we started a couple of different things. One is we've got a project going on right now within the city of Manhattan, and we're gonna have for about five years a little longer than that. But what we're looking at doing is setting up a small village, not a tiny home village. And this is not a village for the homeless. This is a village that's going to be designed for those individuals that have a job, or a couple that has a job. And what we're kind of trying to center this around is probably about a $60,000 cost for a small, super small home, does not have a basement does not have a garage, highly insulated, highly energy efficient. And what we'd like to have happen is these individuals go out, and they go down to John's office and they say, Hey, John, I need a $60,000 loan. And John says, Oh, you've got a job and your husband's got a job, I think we can make that happen. And yeah, we can give you a heck of a deal and on interest and, and over over eight years, your payoff is $684 a month, or depending on what the amortization rate is. But a $60,000 loan for most couples is affordable. I consider it affordable. So we're looking at doing the city Menomonie. And we've been working on this for about five years, we've got three or four different locations that we've been working on trying to place this small village because we need amenities like sewer, water, you know, gas lines, electricity and so forth that are readily available. But we do have a couple of locations available that we're looking at. And I'm hoping to launch it this year. But what we ran into problems with is I started looking at the possibility of having a co op or a co op ownership of this. That didn't work. Then I looked at all the city of Menomonie is just going to do this and we're going to manage this and my administrator just shook his head and he said no, Mayor, that's not going to work. It's like okay, so recently, a few months back, the city decided that we had a couple of lots available that we thought would be great to donate to Habitat for Humanity. So while the the one of the head guys was here from Habitat for Humanity, I said, here's a program that I'd like to instigate and would you be interested as Habitat for Humanity operating and managing this site. And he says, you know, give me more details. So we laid it all out for him, he says, Absolutely, That'd be right up our alley. So the idea is, is the city would put the infrastructure in, buy the land or own the land, put the water the sewer the streets in, and then handed off to Habitat for Humanity to manage a affordable home, village style living. We're looking at eight modular style homes, you pick from one of those eight, unless you there's already one there that that you're going to move into. And, of course, small, you know, 600 square feet, 800 square feet, 1000 square feet, depending on if it's a 60, 80 or $100,000 range, depending on your loan, you know, what you can get, but we're looking at doing is, those payments would be $684, you'd have, you know, the utilities and such on top of that. But after eight years, you got that paid off, and you get your money back when you sell it back to the conglomerate. So it's not like paying rent, which I understand, you know, sometimes people are forced to pay rent, because they're living maybe six months or a year, and they might be moving into a different location, or they've got a job that requires them to stay and, and pay rent until they can afford to buy a house. But here, this would be what I would consider for affordable housing, because you would be able to, after eight years, you make the payments, you'd be able to capitalize on all that equity and get it back and we're looking at possibly a 3% inflationary rate every year, but they'd have to sell that property back to the conglomerate. In this case, we'd be happy to have to humanity, Habitat for Humanity, I was able to buy windows, at cost and appliances, that cost and your heating and air conditioning and all that kind of things. So we probably have off site area for them to park if they wanted to park underneath the lean to probably a little storage area attached to that and probably like a community center built in. So there's overflow, because if you have a guest or you know at Christmas time you have guests coming in, or the camaraderie of the of the complex also. So that's one of the projects we're working on spent about five years in the making so far. And we're hoping to launch this summer, if it works out. What the city was really able to do this last go round is we close one of our CIT districts down, which is a tax increment district. And instead of giving those tax dollars off to the school district to county, that tech school and also the city, were able to capitalize a one time tax initiative into affordable housing. So and it was our biggest tip, I was on an industrial park, we closed that down. And so those tax increment dollars came into what we call affordable housing an account. So we've captured $1.7 million into an affordable housing account now. So it really gives us finality, the availability or the financing, to move forward on this concept. So we're hoping that this summer we can pull the plug and make this all happen. So I've been working with Habitat for Humanity, been working with the city, we just have a new public works director Dave Schofield took over for Randy Eide. So there's been some change in leadership there. And, and he's amazing. And also, one other change that we just took on is our city administrator Lowell Prange, after 35 years just retired. And Chief Eric Atkinson, our police chief raise your energy right there. He is going to be the new city administrator. So the funny thing is, it's going to be hard to break myself of calling him chief. So I just got to say, Hey, you, Eric. What do we got? What do we got going today? So we've been meeting and he's been picking up the ropes from Lowell. So we've got a lot of changes at city hall that are in that are happening. But I'm working with an incredible group of people. Our city council people are amazing. The leadership in all the all the areas of our city, the Parks Department, the rector, the rec department, the parks department, public works department, the water department, the sewer department, these are all incredible, amazing people. So if you get a chance to say thank you to them, but those are the people that makes my job easier. It allows me to do something like this affordable home. And this kind of a project. We also have home sweet Menominee, which is something that when you buy a new home in Menominee, or the news told me Menominee, the city of Menominee will and your partners because we've partnered with the school district 3M, cardinal glass, Anderson Windows and some others. If you work for one of those organizations, you get $10,000 gap financing towards your home and we filled 47 of those in the last three years since it started. So that's an amazing program. And so it's called Home Sweet Menominee. So if you know anybody that works for an entity that's involved in the program, and we're looking for other entities to be involved also, but it was for those and cities because they can say, You know what, you're working for us and you're looking for a new home, you're eligible for $10,000 gap financing for that home. And sometimes that's all it takes to fill the gap to make it a possibility. So what is affordable home? Housing? Is that sleeping on your couch going into a small village and have some ownership? Or? Or is it renting it? Where, you know, in some cases, you know, you paid 1400 $1,600 a month, unlike Vince's you know, one of his mobile home parks, which, you know, you're a really nice guy, and you make things super affordable for living. So give them more. But it's true. When I met my girlfriend now wife, she was living in Double B, trailer park open doors. And there's a lot of how many properties sites do you have altogether 150 190 to 192 sites, that fills a big gap in what we need for housing. And then we're building also, there's another development going in right now. It's called Estover development. And, you know, sometimes you look at these developments, and I'm not 100% on board with a lot of the developments that happen, because I don't see them as being necessarily affordable. Because if it's, if it's an apartment complex, you know, they're getting their $1,400 a month. And it's, it's not money they're ever gonna get back. So I don't consider affordable housing having to pay an exorbitant amount of rental fee, I look at other ways that we can do this, what we're going to do is in this affordable home, a complex a small house, I call it small home, that tiny home development, we want it to be a show and tell development, because we want others to see what we're doing. And we want to let them know if we can do it, they can do it. So we're looking at this as a strong candidate for affordable housing in Menominee. And I know the county's, you know, on boarded to look at other affordable housing projects, I want to thank Padraig for his efforts on putting this shelter together with 20 more beds is huge. And when he came to the city and said, say would you sponsor this because we need a municipality to sponsor I talked to all our administrators, oh my gosh, man, it's gonna be a lot of work. And I said, I know. But if you're willing to do the work, we'll I'll backyard it and lo picked up the the reins and ran with it. And about 1.4 million I believe, from the state of Wisconsin to help with that shelter. So it's kind of a unified effort, not just not just the city of standing on its own, but Podrick coming to the city and, and working together to make things happen. It's it's totally, it's way cool. What another thing just before note, I'm going to skip the topic matter just for a moment on affordable housing. And I want to tell you something else that the Menomonie's doing this way credible, and that's called Project HOPE. breeches max. So, so methamphetamine, it's the worst. How many people know people that have been involved or don't people somehow that's connected to methamphetamine? It's the worst of the worst. It's worse than anything I've ever seen. I've lost friends to math. And I've been employees that have been on that. I put up people in houses on meth. Meth was awful. Drug addiction in general is just, it's a bad thing. I think the statistics in Menominee it was upwards. I don't know if it's 80%. But near 80% of all our crime is related to mountain in Wisconsin. In our it's not going through a red light. It's not you know, it's not the shoplifter, but it's the criminals that the crime level is the theft and, and those kinds of things is related to meth. And so when the chief came on 10 years ago, pretty close down Yeah, about 10 years ago with the chief and I had a closed door session and I said these are my goals. And the chief has just leaps and bounds. met all the goals that I assigned to him, community with community based policing, good cops out there serving the public, which is outstanding. And then took meth, the Project HOPE and made it Project HOPE and made it happen. We are now at the cusp of having all the counties surrounding Dunn County and being involved in projects. We're talking to them. We we just did a zoom session with across the nation day before yesterday regarding methamphetamine and drug addiction and announcing project Hope and what it does and how it works. And we are so close to getting to a state level where once we get the state level involved in the the system of control, we call it Project HOPE. It's evidence based policing and helping people that have addictions and it's setting a new paradigm in drug addiction. It's reaching out to people that need help. And the chief has done a phenomenal job and once we get it to a state level, we hope that we can take it nationally If we get it national it's third year in Menomonie, WI. So I'm so proud of the chief. And it's so good to be here. You know, it's it's, Menomonie is amazing. So if you love the nominee, be involved in the nominee. And, you know, affordable housing. I know that's the topic matter. And I skipped on command a little bit, but I'm passionate. Yes. Three.

Lorene Vedder 40:27

What is the housing development that you were talking about? I missed the name of that.

Randy Knaack 40:31

Well, we have two, the one is called Estover. And Estover is a rather large development, it's going to be south of the old police station, between 17th I believe, and highway J. And so, but you know, it's great to have housing and so forth. The only concern of mine is it again, most of its 12 plexes, eight plexes, four plexes. There's some single family, we've made them put single families into the development agreement, so that we had that covered. And then there's other one too, across the way that's going to be built on the hill, next to the middle school, which I would call normal, it's more multifamily again, but it's geared more towards the elderly, or veterans and such. So there's some financing to help those individuals. So we've got two major, I think, 155 units or something like that going in. But again, what we need, in my opinion, is more affordable housing. And that's the direction I'm trying to lean towards. We have the funding, we have the means and the mechanism to get it done this year. So I'm hoping that this is the year to make a solid effort towards affordable housing in our city. So with that, I'll just I don't want to ramble on too long. I gotta say, an hour and a half for Mike to speak. So is there any questions? Do you have any questions? Yes,

Sandy White 41:53

Sandy? Yeah, well, I have some concerns. Because now that the city has moved into subsidizing some of these housing developments, which has been new, because when I was on the council, we never did that. But there was that development downs by the stadium. Now we've got the 155 unit going up across from Oaklawn. And I don't know, I don't think you subsidize the Estover, but when you put those in a TIF, and they have up to 20 years to pay that back, before it goes on to the tax roll. That's an issue for us in the city of Menominee. With an aging population, those of us who are paying our taxes and everything, and you've got what maybe only 4500 individuals paying or, or properties paying taxes in the city, that means that we take on, I think, a greater burden. And for those of us who are retiring or aging, that's an issue. Is there any discussion in that in that realm?

Randy Knaack 42:50

Well, part of that theory, I argue with you, and I can argue pretty well together. But here's how the TIF districts really works is those tax dollars that are being collected from those entities are coming directly to the city, and not being shared with the county, the school district and Tech College. So those tax dollars that come back from that development pays itself back. But without tax incentives, it wouldn't be there, it wouldn't go there. So it's kind of like, well, a lot of the other communities that I know would just where they would die for our development like this. I mean, they would they love these things that just give some housing. And it's it's it's harsh, I say, it's in the eye of the beholder or those that that can afford to live in those places. Some people don't want to own a house, they don't want to care for a house, they have a job. They just want to go home and pay their rent. And they're good with that. And that's good. That's good. And I understand only elderly or aging population, I think what we should have is more high rise. Maybe apartment complexes more like this Cantera apartments, which is quite affordable. And that's that's that would be a great remedy also, but again, you need land and you need the summer contractor. And you need a conglomerate to take that off and isn't willing that that isn't all about greed and making a ton of money. You know, that's like Vince said that's that's a big part of it. Now, you mentioned the the living the living across from the the stadium that's filled with students primarily. And it's actually a yes, we gave them some incentive to be there. But it wasn't all that much. And that money does come back to the taxpayer, because it all comes back to the entity that's that's funding that tax increment venue, that district 10 districts stands for tax increment district and is the same as a TIF district which is a tax increment financing. It's one of the same two different acronyms, but we have found Okay, here's here's a fun fact. If we wouldn't have had a TIF district in the industrial park, you know, towards Andersen, Windows Carter glass three, if if we wouldn't had a TIF district in place and gave those businesses incentives to be there, they wouldn't be there. And look at the jobs they offer, we had 100 million $100 million in in growth in those areas in 10 years since I got here 10 years or 12 years, but 10 years in the last 10 years, with 100 million 100 million dollars, where the growth that is unbelievable. The jobs that comes the taxes from 100 million is amazing. So if you look at the broad spectrum, and if you're not sold on two districts or TIF districts, then you're really not, then you're ill informed. Because what you really need to do is look at what those tax increment districts do for a city. It's huge, but just to be able to help people understand fine, right? So the key point, if you're a community person is that tips aren't taking tax money away, that's already present. It's it's doing something about those additional dollars that business does in the future. So I think that's important. People understand that. We're not taking money away from today's tax roll. I don't know how, yeah, well in what it is. It's almost like paying forward for taxes coming back to you. So in other words, it yes, you if you don't do anything, it's there's there's a neutral, you're not gonna get any more taxes, you're just gonna say, yep, save, save forever. Now, if you build something there, over the next 20 years, they pay into all the tax money comes directly to you and offsets any incentives that you get. Now, yes, if I give somebody $300,000, say, but the increment values 30 million, well, that $300,000 gets eaten up pretty fast. But sometimes it's just that 300,000 $400,000 that you give to somebody to incentivize them to be here. It says, Yeah, we like working with you, because you're helping us do this. And so then we don't mind giving you the $30 million worth of tax revenue in the future to make it offset. So I mean, it's proof in the pudding if you really wanted to look at the industrial park and what's going on out there. Without tax increment district or a TIF district who wouldn't happen. We did the cobblestone downtown. That was a tax we gave them. I can't remember the exact numbers, I think it was five. And I think Robin, you were around, that was a five or $400,000 goes before you. I think it was $400,000 to help with that. And that being said, we did make some modification that said, Okay, we're gonna give you the four and 1000. But we don't want vinyl siding. We don't want just an ugly hotel downtown. We want it to be classy. We want rock, we want a facade that looks like it belongs and it's nice. So yeah, we gave them $400,000. But we also got our way a little bit. So that being said, we've done that they know they have to sign a developer's agreement, they have to be there's a lot of rules that go into in some of these, some of these areas where the two developments are. They're called PUDs. It's a planned unit development. So that being said, they could have went in there and they could have just done it. And we want to be able to say Oh, but we have to have some single family homes with that, by the way. And also we need this done and that done. We want trails, we want sidewalks, we know we want streetlights, we want curb and gutter. If if we didn't offer some of those incentives, and did the planned unit development, then those things we don't have control over that. They can just build whatever they want. And on top of.


Yes, I have a question. So well, those developments also focus on accessibility in addition to affordability.

Randy Knaack 48:48

Well, the one across from the middle school that is designed when they're gonna have solar panels and high efficiency building. They're all high efficiency, no, but this one is going a little over and above with accessibility, and an elderly accessibility and veterans accessibility. And there's some some payback, some programs that they involve themselves with, to make it more affordable for that clientele. Now the other one is the apex is a pro flex, it's a little different level. I they've got some steps and they've got different things that don't quite equate to accessibility. So one does more so the other not so much.


Then my next question is for those that do Is there a sign up list or? Yes. How would people express their interest? Okay. Eligible because I'm assuming there are some eligibility issues. If you say veterans and

Randy Knaack 49:47

I think you have to be over 55 and it has to be or a veteran. And then yes, once they get up and running, I don't know the the exact details but you just have to contact the developer or the management company and And then get your name on a waiting list. But I know that there's there's a lot of being they're putting solar panel pods out there. And they're also putting, we're gonna say, there was this long, anytime that developments happen nowadays, if we're involved in it to distribute the city gives them money, we encourage them to not only put sidewalks in, but we encourage them to be high efficiency, along with parks and recreational areas, there has to be a certain amount of green space. They just can't build a big layout a big chunk of concrete and just build a big structure on it. That doesn't cut it. So there's a certain amount of rules and regulations, especially if the city gives them money, we can dictate some of those rules. So there's a plus to that. Yes,


extremes of wealth have created experience of poverty. So what programs have you set in motion to deal with extremely well?

Randy Knaack 50:54

What? Well, me not quite so many programs from the mayor's perspective, but I oversee or I watch other people put these programs together, I think stepping stones has done an extreme job. Great job with that. I know the one of the the the $10,000 that the city gives to new homeowners that kind of helps with that also. But you're absolutely right. You're right, extreme poverty or extreme wealth does create more people without the money besides, and I think you'd be great on some of our boards to help us with some of that, because we need help. And we need we need volunteers across the board. And it's wonderful to see all these people here. And I don't have all the answers for all your question, but that's a great question. And I might just pass that question along to mine for five of your events. But But you're right, and that's a great question. And so the city of Menomonie itself, we don't initiate a lot of those programs. But we we oversee sometimes we we make money available for some of those programs. You know, we work closely with the dog shelter, humane society, for picking up the stray animals. There's the the maintainer get subsidies, there's different different individuals that steppingstones get subsidy subsidy from the city. So we don't might not oversee the program, or start the program. But sometimes we help to fund some of those programs that are already in existence. So Boys and Girls Clubs, for instance, and things of that nature. So yes, Sandy,

Sandy White 52:22

just one last thing. First of all, I am in favor of TIFs, number one, especially for business and industry when they can. And one thing I was concerned about is when I was on the council, they were only at that time giving out like $12 An hour jobs. Now that's changed. Now it's gotten so competitive, and so that the salaries that some of these businesses and industries are giving out, is making it more better for some of these individuals to afford some of the housing. But what I would like to challenge the city on is we need to look beyond just the city limits, we need to have collaborations with our townships with the state. So that and I am challenging Eric to do that. So that we can make this you know, I don't like how the you know, the the way that we tax things in this in the state of Wisconsin, we've got to make some changes, because it's not working for you know, each little individual town to be a separate entity, and only for you know what you can do with just that those tax dollars, etc. So I would like to see us form more collaborative partnerships in the future, not only with the contractors, but the state and with our surrounding townships. So I just put that out there.

Randy Knaack 53:39

just to touch on that real quick and and no pun intended. But we do meet quarterly with all the townships or especially the ones surrounding Menominee, Wisconsin, so Canton, township, town Menominee, and so on. So we do meet on a regular basis, we do have a map of the surrounding area of Menominee. And what kind of goes where and how to accomplish that with the towns. So we are in contact with the towns in the city Menominee. So there is that cohesion. The county right now he is working on a housing plan, and the city sits on that housing committee also. And so the common use is we have a new County Administrator and I think she's knocking it out of the park. She's doing an amazing job. And she's really involved. And she's really bringing things to the forefront. So if you've got anything that's really interesting, and you might you want to talk to Chris corporate law, I would add the new County Administrator, she's doing outstanding. So our administrator for the city does half as good as she's doing. We're gonna be great. Thank you. You're welcome. Any other questions? I'll turn to Michael. Yes. going again,


back to habitat and many how many units was that you're working with them?

Randy Knaack 54:50

Well, we'd like to try to get 100 units in I know that the first year we're looking at probably about 20. Maybe if we can get if we get 10 and we get one in this year. We did something But what we're trying to gain 100 unit piece now that's going to be not only probably this piece of land, but another piece of land. But we think that we have the funding sources available that we can, in the future do these 100 pieces. And that's just the infrastructure portion. That's the modular type build, that wouldn't be out of floating. He did slap a modular six, eight inch walls, whatever it is high efficiency, that's great.

Steve Hogseth 55:25

Where will they start?

Randy Knaack 55:27

Well, we don't have our exact we have four different locations that we've been looking at. And I'm not at liberty to tell you where those are at yet, because we're still working on the water, sewer and all those things. But as soon as, as soon as we get a little bit closer, I present this to the city council. The city council knows I'm working on it. But they don't know all of the elements of it yet, because I don't have it all put together. But it was a huge, huge help for Habitat for Humanity to come forward and say, Yeah, we're interested, Mayor, now we're in. We're a little bit in discussion with like some of the other suppliers like maybe if Andersen windows would come on board, and we could call it Anderson park or something like that, that they would get on board. So we're working with Cardinal glass and Andersen windows and some of the local bigger conglomerates. Yes. Question.


When you say high efficiency, is that really code plus? Or is that a specific state?

Randy Knaack 56:22

Building Code plus? Exactly? Yes. Well, I don't know what the energy store. But what we'd like to do is initiate some some solar panels and other things. And you know, the other thing is solar panels recently have really gotten more efficient. The Rassbach, the Rassbach Museum is putting in solar bank and the city funded some of that, and their solar panels that they're getting are three times more efficient than they were a couple of years ago. So you know, by hopefully, by the time we get this, soon, when we get these things going, the efficiency level shouldn't be outstanding. So I'm hoping for the best Yes.


Do we have a place in any of these places for people who are younger than 55? For some reasons, challenged? I mean, are you gonna have a place for them?

Randy Knaack 57:10

Well, you know, that's, that's, that's a tough, that's a tough question. These homes will be built on one level. And some of them I think we will probably put in that handicap accessibility aspect. So it's a that's a great point. And that's something that I'll add to the discussion when we when we open up this small village. That's a great point. Thank you. Yeah. And it's not made for just anybody of any age. I mean, you could be 18 years old, you got a job, you can afford it. You can be there, you're gonna be 75 years old. And if you can move into our small village, then your doors are open, and we want you to come and welcome. And in that home village, we're looking at Community Center area, some storage, off premise, you know, maybe a lean to style. All of lawn mowing's done for you all, everything else is done for you. If you decide to stay there, after you pay your home off, there's probably like a fee that's going to pay into the homeowners association thing of a couple 100 bucks a month or whatever. But there's a lot of things, a lot of moving pieces to this that we're working on. So yes. storm shelter. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Thank you. Yes.


Real quick, is that so these small homes? Do they build equity over that time, so that person can resell?

Randy Knaack 58:25

Absolutely. Yep. The equity you get back after you pay the loan off is yours. But you have to sell back to the conglomerate. And we're trying to work in a 3% inflationary increase with that dollar amount. So there's some So yeah, basically, you get that $60,000 equity back if that's what it costs you, plus a 3% increase. And hopefully, you can move on to the $150,000 home, and then the $300,000 home and then a half million dollar home that does something you're reading you know, John is saying barbershoppers for a couple of years, and he's got a tremendous voice. You can't believe anything he says, but boy, he's got a tremendous. Any last questions? All right. Oh, yes. Yeah, I


am. I'm curious too, about like, more options for you know, larger families. I just spoke with a woman who had six kids and was really struggling to find an affordable, healthy, safe place to live.

Randy Knaack 59:30

I know and, and these homes are small, but they're there. We're trying to gauge them. So there's a 60, 80 and $100,000 range. So being you know, up to $100,000 for home, it's gonna be pretty sizable. And you know, if something like that could be affordable for somebody with six kids, that was an option. Whatever $100,000 So, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Oh,

Michael Brandt 1:00:05

thank you. I'm going to speak to you very differently. And I have to look you in the eye because I want you


interested in that.

Luisa Gerasimo 1:00:17

Public speaking book, microphone,

Michael Brandt 1:00:21

okay. I'm gonna speak to you as kind of an immigrant into your town. I came here 15, 16 years ago, I grew up in southern Wisconsin, went to Madison to school, went to Iowa to work in industry, decided I didn't like what I was seeing. My brother and I, a lot of side of a mountain in New York State upstate, in the mountains and build a ski area. And my life was spent building a ski area, got angry with government, ran for mayor and got it. So I ran three terms as the mayor, town of 27 28,000 people have very small board and only five. So it was a very different kind of government than what you have here. The mayor was the chief executive officer and the Chief Financial Officer. So I got to learn a whole lot of things. I came here as an immigrant, to the United States in 1938. And my first memory is getting off the ship in New York Harbor. That's my first memory in life. And seeing these hundreds and hundreds of people on this dock next to this enormous ship. I saw people digging trenches, in my youth. Hundreds of men digging trenches for the WPA, we were in near Boston and Waltham, where we my father got a job. We moved to southern Wisconsin, because my father and mother didn't like Boston. They had been Protestant Swiss and they didn't like the Catholic hierarchy in in Boston. And I'll grew up on a farm. From that perspective, let me tell you what's clocked me here. First of all, this housing study was commissioned by the county. The county has held hearings. This guy put me on for some reason. But so I went to all the hearings, and hearings. You're interesting, because what's the point you look at? Look at our town right here, community 50% of your homes are 80 years old, or more 80 years ago, and you know what electrical systems look like? You want plumbing systems look like? You know what insulation systems look like? You have a lot of old homes yet that are in bad shape. They're a rental property. And your state has made it very difficult for your inspector to go in there and say they're not that they need fixing. But it's time we as a nation, look at the heating problems. I met a guy who rented one of these, and his heating bill was, what 800 bucks for a month or was it nine months? Or not other words, they're very inefficient. And as a nation, we can't stand that. So we need to be able to use that efficiency by going to our utilities and say what homes are in this bad a shape and then we need to start an industry to fix those homes. You've got a window company here, you've got 3M here, you've got a school that teaches trades, putting together and start a an effort where you go into one of these homes after another after another to take it out of the market, buy it whatever you got to do, rebuild it and put it back in the market and do one after another until you get these homes in shape. That's an outsider's view. When you listen to what people say we need, well, we need homeless oh my god, we do need that. When I look at this nation, I've watched it change when the Supreme Court decided Citizens United and they gave this nation to the ultra wealthy to run and they're running it whether you like it or not. It's fact what you're going to do about not my problem anymore because I made the eight your problem But you better damn well do something about it. You don't have a voice in state government, you don't have a voice in federal government. And you need one. Until you get one. You don't have a democracy. It's just a bunch of BS. So what is the net result of that? The net result is, I want to work in industry in 1956. When I was in college, I worked in a union jobs. And when I look at what I was getting paid them today, it would be about a kid, oh, it's worth it. I always get paid, what today would be about $20 an hour. See what's happened to wages? That's happened because the ultra wealthy have been allowed to make monopolies and control labor prices. And so now here, you said, What am I going to do about providing housing for people who can't afford housing? That's a problem. And if it keeps going, the houses are going to have to get smaller and smaller. Like it or lump it. That's life. You got a beautiful situation with this housing question. Look at your community and redesign. You're doing it not me. But I'm telling you, you guys opportunity. The county started this. So I went to the county and talked to some certain people. And I said, Wait a minute. I've done some development. You want a really nice high density development. Look at your we call it thing the

Lorene Vedder 1:06:52

rec department. The

Michael Brandt 1:06:57

Fair, the fair ground, you've got electricity, you got all utilities there. You've already sort of solved the drainage problems. You've got a nice Sunday, those were kids slip slide, you got all kinds of lawn in there, knocked on all that other crap leaves leaves on the skating rink, and then puts a really high density development, you've got access to immediate access to biking all over there. From there you go all over the the industrial park from there, you go down Main Street, you're into downtown from downtown, you can be on all the other trails that we have it, you're next to the playgrounds, you're next to the school, you're next to a health facility. That's very important for older people. You've got Kwik Trip that's already selling food, you've got a restaurant right there, you could make a beautiful high density development. Probably high density developments is that their condominium condominium means you jointly own things. condominiums have a great big problem. The joint ownership requires an association. And the association's invariably run very high costs and become top heavy. And there's a lot of litigation against them. Where you have the situation that's out here. All the things that you want are already provided by the community. You don't need anything much more than Lawn Care etcetera, that type of thing. So you could be a minimal for what community you have another thing to look at while you're planning this community was the sand plan. And they've been mining for quite a while. Now. They got to reclaim land. You need to incorporate you need to think about that. You still have beautiful sights that are part of the industrial parks that could be part of this. You really need to look at the whole plan and and figure out what's best for your community. And you got a wonderful opportunity to do that basically one thing you got to do when you do housing today. Water and Sewer have to go with the city. Got to do it. Small systems don't work. They're not environmentally smart. You want sewer and water in a city system that's blank. tie that into your plan. But get involved make a plan. Another question Get government came down on what it demands of the developer, allow high density. Don't waste land where you have utilities get denser than it works, don't have a lot of green space, where you have your utilities put down, where you don't have utilities. get approval processes that move. Nobody wants change, I don't care what you're gonna do. There's a neighbor that doesn't want it. So how much voice is gonna give them? I've been through so many public hearings and hearing that crap. I mean, really, change is the universal thing. It's going to happen all our lives, accommodated with facts fast. Don't make an expensive, good one you do if you're making a housing expense. That's my wisdom, good luck.


This reminded me of what we watched last to home. And I just showed the done. We no one mentioned this. We have except greed. Corporations have gone in cities and bought up housing. And then they rent it out to regular people. And so on the show they would show the family young family wanting to buy a house if they afford it. But because the court these corporations have come in and bought these houses, they're now renting them at ridiculous rental rates. So I mean, why why did the United States of America let corporations come in and do that? And take what American dream was owning your own house if you wanted to? Now these people who want to own their own house can't because they can't even get into it?

Michael Brandt 1:12:05

Sure, let me answer that. Very, very interesting question, because it has a real answer. It happened with the Federal Reserve System, I read a book about it right now. Congress quit working because of money in politics. But heavy money in politics goes after anybody that doesn't have their agenda. And their agenda is tight. They don't, we don't have global warming. So get over that. That's part of their agenda. It just doesn't exist. Their agenda is they want to lower wages, they control. And since you can't get anything done in Congress, then the Fed decided to feed money into the system to solve problems. And they've done this and done this and done this, and then the, the pandemic hit, and they had to do it some more. And now, you've got so much money in the system, that rich people have so much money, they don't know what to do with it. So they buy real estate. And they show the price of real estate higher and higher. And you probably are going to see a major collapse in our pull in our economic system, because that's what the Federal Reserve is fighting right now. That's the big arguments, how are they going to pull that money out of the system? Without collapsing our economy? I don't know the answer, that's for sure. I hope they find it. But one thing that's wrong is our political system on the national level is not working. Nobody can get together and solve problems. So you've got this terrible banking situation, which is exactly what as you said, it's also the cost of, you know, the banks are buying their own. I mean, the banks, the corporations are buying their own sock, which includes banks, and corporations, and it's a really crazy economy. And it's going to, it's going to get better. Because Powell has said it's going to get better. So I suspect it's going to, they're going to pull money out. And so we're in for, you know, some big changes.


I have a question. I'm an architect. So I have some expertise to offer. I have heard about projects being developed in the community. I would be super excited to participate Jake's abilities to say friends and colleagues who have expertise. So how would we get involved to sort of bring projects like that forward with the resources we have in the community? I'd say as as sorry, as a side note, is just in my professional community. Yeah, I realized that sometimes the rural areas are forgotten. We look at big cities, we look at the coastlines and create a story. But then things are happening differently in rural communities. And Menomonie is sort of an interesting in between, like a private through a little bit. So it has potential, it has possibilities, and a lot of good people in the community that can contribute. So I would be like,

Michael Brandt 1:15:31

you know, what local governments, the only government where you have a voice? Maybe not, I don't want to step into politics, I want to know, oh, no, I'm seeing a voice. You don't have to be a member of a political party to have a voice. You need to speak up. And I'm telling you, you got a chance to re examine what you're doing here. But it's your community. So you need a community base to do that. Don't ask the city to do it for you. Get a group together and start talking and come to the communities and say, We want a voice in us. We wanted to help you. For instance, why went to the county and certain leaders and said, Well, how about this fairground, and this guy said to me, you can't touch the fairground. It belongs to the County, the county said, yeah, that damn things with a lot of money if it's done nothing for us. You know, you look at the the air pollution than the, and the noise pollution that comes out of that thing. Every Friday Oh, my God,

Sandy White 1:16:39

on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, sometimes way into in April when the school still going. But

Michael Brandt 1:16:46

the county is willing to sell it. One of the things that has come up with these hearings is that 3M has said, we have a problem we can bring executives to find homes in our community. So here's a place where you can do it, you can put some really nice development, and you're gonna have to find other developers to come in here to do that kind of development, and do a good, tight, maybe it's three story, whatever it is. I'm not into that. But you probably go to the cities to find those kinds of people. And design something, you can do stuff for older people. You can do it for your executives that have a family that will work. Think big, do it.


Some people want to know where they go to help now, where can they sign up? Well to be drafted. Ah,

Randy Knaack 1:17:49

we want help with city wants advice. I know that for a fact, because we don't have all the answers. And the more brains that we can put on this architecture would be amazing. Start looking at where can we find people that will put up modular homes? And how do we make the connection with okay, you're going to do this modular home, but the winner is going to come from x and you're going to work through Habitat for Humanity. So the mayor's door is always open. Here's my card, I have more cards. If anybody would like to be involved in more city stuff, please, please, please reach out to me and the city. And Eric is our new administrator Eric's going to be he's totally on board to do good things for the city he has in the past. And he's going to be a dynamic person to work with. So we absolutely appreciate all the help we get.

Luisa Gerasimo 1:18:36

I'd like to say to you that we do have the housing Action Team, which is part of the health system, right? We have been on hiatus for what a year, while the housing study was completed, we haven't been meeting but that group is concerned citizens people working in the community. And it came up directly out of the study of our own community asking what do we need in our community to support our community health. And unlike some communities housing rose enough to the top that it actually became a working team. So we spent several years really exercising our brains as to what are the problems that are confronting us for lack of affordable housing in particular. And then we were able to get a grant and paid for a pretty extensive housing study, which I think was referenced by you. And we are now going to be doing sort of an executive summary. And coming back together, I think next week is our first meeting. And then we will probably start meeting again on a monthly basis as maybe it might be every other month. We haven't decided that yet. But the goal of this is really to move the needle forward for our community. And people from the community are welcome. I can give you my business card or it really if you've got your cards on Saturday but we will be getting back going again and yeah, the health done right has its own website and I think there's a content that's paid Adrienne, Caitlin Angley is managing that and she'll do a great job getting back to you. So there are, there are places for people to put their energy and attention on this really important issue that affects all of us. Very briefly, since we've told a lot of stories today. I work for University of Wisconsin Madison, Division of extension, we have our own offices in the dunk county government services, we are part of your community, we live here we work here we serve our community. And we just hired a new staff person from Eau Claire, and she cannot find a place to live here. And she's going mental about it. I mean, you could tell it's really eating her up inside, she can't find anything that she can afford. And I don't want to lose her because she's an excellent staff member. But this is what happens to employers, right? You get somebody they're like, yes, I want the job. And they're like, move the family there. Oh, wait, we can't find the housing stock. So we do have a serious problem. And it's like, to me, it's like a, it's like throwing up a sea drag behind you in a sailboat where you're just hauling water and all your brakes go screeching on. It's like that in our community because it impacts every piece of our community's life. And it just, I know that this is intractable as they call wicked problem. If it was easy to solve, the United States would have already assaulted, it's we definitely are going to need community willpower to make some changes happen. So I really appreciate that people came out on a beautiful Saturday, like our first really nice one. But I'll push out some business cards and Julie and Julie Bendel, from the Community Foundation of them County, the two of us have worked in the housing action team for several years. I don't know COVID mess, but my whole sense of what are yours? And when do we start? It's been a while? Do you?


Do you know what you're going to be organizing around? Or is that what you're trying to figure out what to look at your housing study?

Luisa Gerasimo 1:21:46

Right, we are at a balancing point now where we had to wait to get the actual information. Now we have the actual information. And I think it's going to point us in several, several directions at once. Because there are gaps in housing, which I don't think we necessarily knew that we had some of the housing stock gaps. I'm not great with statistics. So I have to go back and read Look at that. It's pretty hefty document did a bit here attend any of those housing forums where they short shared the results. So we're going to try and get the big pile of information down to human being bite sized pieces. And I think that will give us a little bit of our marching orders. I wish I knew the answer to that. I think we're past the all the complaints stage, which we had for the first three years. And actually the League of Women Voters voters in 2015, or 16, had already launched a study group on this and we sort of combined forces because we were all studying the same thing. But boy, did we hear the complaints. Okay. Yeah, the complaints that concern part is now like, we know that and then it's the what are the

Michael Brandt 1:22:49

No, it's a golden opportunity to look at your own community, and mold. Change it, do it with what you want, you have changes to what you want. And it's wide open, you got a good government, you got people, you've got a hearing going, you got a process going. You gotta get organized now and say we want to be involved and we want to get done. And that's the best of communities.

Steve Hogseth 1:23:23

I think there's been a great discussion. I think everyone can I don't disagree with you like, as we got to do this community. I think we can do something else we have to do. I think I have a good flavor. But on a national level, there is a serious passion that is limiting us as people from moving forward. Yes, yeah. Doing things in the community. Unless we wake up as a society. We're in deep trouble as a nation. And one thing we have to do is, you know, this isn't a political meeting, but really, we have to get out vote. We've got to get past the way they are destroying this nation. Absolutely. But that same group says, I am part of the destruction of this nation. And I think we got to get politically.

Michael Brandt 1:24:56

You know what? This whole idea of getting together for Community compensation started over its citizens united. And that's your problem. That's still your problem. You got to amend the Constitution. And that takes a lot of work. And everybody's got to get with it. And that means every time somebody runs for office to say to you, are you willing to stand up for an amendment against citizens united demand, it's your fault. It's time to assert yourselves.

Lorene Vedder 1:25:28

And that leads us to our program that we're going to have in one month, which is about Citizens United. So I appreciate you all coming. And I think, yes, ma'am.


I'm sorry. I just feel like we have a lot of the right people in the room right now. And like, to your point of what you were saying, like, I don't want to lose momentum. And I feel like we are on the cusp of something. I actually live in River Falls. And I work with grassroots organizing western Wisconsin, and I'm heading a housing campaign in River Falls. We're just getting into it. We listen to our community. And housing was the number one thing we actually knocked on doors in Spring Valley, Ellsworth, and River Falls have had over 1000 doors, we knocked that had over 300 conversations with folks, housing was the number one thing that came up and spoke with community leaders that are involved. And they all agree yes, housing. And now I was just in a call yesterday with it even there's like this coalition starting between the health department in the hospital for like, all these major players in the area, we're very concerned about how, and it sounds like we have one here in this room, as well as like, how do we all work together? And combined our resources? You know, and expertise, even neighboring communities, you know,

Lorene Vedder 1:26:50

would you like me to share email addresses for this group? If we could have a further discussion on the internet.

Randy Knaack 1:27:02

Anytime we work together on a great project or project, it gets bigger and better. And that's phenomenal. Anything that we do, we'd like to have a show and tell so we can show you what we did how we did it. Hey, here's the format, and go do it again.


And it's our grassroots organization. It's like Eminem, supervisor. He's like supervisor. So he lives here in Menomonie, his wife on her worst Co Op. Yeah. So we are like seven counties now it was acting grassroots organizing. So it's all about the power of the people, you know, make the change that people want to see power within the community. It sounds like that's a lot of what's going on here already, you know, a lot of different groups.

Luisa Gerasimo 1:27:51

We get together.


Rural Falls has a beautiful eco village and Habitat for Humanity project. I don't know where it is at yet, at this point. But a few years ago, I did field trips with students to the Eco village. Cool. And it was sort of starting as a collaboration with the University and then maybe migrated similar like you're describing migrated, let's say the academia into habitat. And it's very vital. So in terms of learning from each other.

Steve Hogseth 1:28:26

Can I share a story about the unit from the recent election? Literature and observation. So I, I've been here five years going. And there's a group of guys I meet with coffee on a regular basis, I go down. I mean, every day. I get on, what, three days a week. And we invariably will get into some pretty heavy discussions. And we had the election that we just had. We got talking about the referendum, three referendum questions in the state. And there was a lot of confusion in our little group on those referendum questions. We talked about it quite a bit. And the consensus of our group was no no, no. On how to vote, handled referendum questions. And well, as you all know that a yes, yes, yes, it's fine. And there was a I looked at all the election results late Tuesday night like midnight, and looked at all the city wards, the townships and there was one Ward Ward five. At the time, it was late at night. All right. And I've been going Ward by voice. They voted for Janna 721 I told the guys at coffee the next morning, and one of the guys he gets on his phone. Here's a word by this. It's students. Then Then last night when I got home that day when I got home I haven't looked at that same word for the referendum questions. And those kids more than like we old men. They were mainly No, no, they were mainly knows the rest of the city and the cardio were mainly yesterday. And that really inspired me for some hope for the future, showing that those kids are just not insured.

Sandy White 1:31:02

The reason probably for that is because we have some great social scientists at the UW, that we're bringing those issues into their classroom to death for discussion. I will tell you, I worked towards one and two of the Christ Lutheran all day that day, there was so much confusion and we can't respond to the questions. Nobody even knew about some of those referendum questions. There is a no prior education or community discussions, I think enough to help educate our community on the pros and cons of those, you know, issues. And so when people initially read them, I mean, because I was I mean, there are boards one and two voted yeses, you know, the majority were yeses. And I think it was because of pure confusion.

Lorene Vedder 1:31:55

You're absolutely right. Well, the way they were constructed, though, was for a yes. Vote. Yeah.

Steve Hogseth 1:32:01

People don't know they're in there, right? No. Well, yes. Sounds good. Better than No, right? Just psychologic Yeah,

Luisa Gerasimo 1:32:10

go to my vote, my and look up your ballot before you vote and then go research those ballot questions. Okay, in the back, we got a question.


So I work with Wisconsin milkweed. alliance with monarch how secure unrested and flightscope droppin Center here in Menominee. I also recently started with Northwest connections as mobile crisis worker with both of those entities there. So you know, one of the things I believe is important is to advocate for the people that, you know, are not represented in this room that don't fill out the surveys, you know, the people working third shift, homeless, people that, you know, want housing, may not be in an emergency shelter situation, but can't do not have the credit score or the background, to be able to be approved via landlord or to get a mortgage. And these are, you know, we get calls on a warm line all the time of people just being like, I can't get it, get someplace to live here, I don't have an address. So I can't even get a job here. I'm stuck there couchsurfing, I have people that are calling our respite, scheduling out every three months, so that they can come stay with us every 90 days. Because they just you know, they just found a rotating way to live, you know, they may be on Social Security to have very limited income, but they may also have mental health issues or other maybe criminal background that's preventing them from being able to find a place. So I just want to bring these issues up, because I'm hearing a lot of things about Oh, get a loan or just, you know, get an apartment. It's really hard here. I currently live in the student housing area with my family. Because when we moved to Menominee, two years ago, there was nothing else available within our price range. So it's really hard. I heard about the mother that has the kids trying to find a place, it's near impossible to find housing in the area unless something happens to open up. So I'm glad there's a lot of these other initiatives going on. There's just some populations I don't see represented, and that need to kind of be addressed.

Luisa Gerasimo 1:34:24

If it makes you feel any better. We did have many populations at the beginning of the housing Action Team, which was part of how it's done right, including people fresh out of jail, people who had never been able to rent and had no credit history at all, and people who are were either homeless or recently homeless. And we did have people who were, you know, going through trying to recover from drug addiction and the difficulties that come after that. There's a Housing First movement in this country and in other countries. I encourage you guys to google it, Housing First. If you take care of housing, then things like that. Tonight, yeah, public anything that the public health department is concerned about, and that we're all should be concerned about. It's much easier to deal with when you have a safe, secure roof over your head and foundation under your feet. Anybody who went to college and studied Maslow's hierarchy of needs, understand that you do not do your best intellectual work when you are scared, cold, dirty, and not sure where you're going to be tomorrow night. And that's a lot of our kids in high school right now. Don't have they're not sure where they are tomorrow? And how do we expect them to increase

Padraig Gallagher 1:35:30

their test scores. I'd like to dovetail off of what you both have said in that. No, I opened up talking about our emergency shelter program. And its stepping stones and the people that we serve very similar populations. And something that I noticed with the results from the housing study, and a lot of the conversations here are focusing on housing that will only help the people that we serve through a trickle down model. Right? If we build more affordable housing for people that can afford rent, Well, that'll reduce the competition for the student rentals, those prices won't be quite so high, they won't get dozens of applicants, maybe they'll only get a dozen, they'll start considering people with poor credit, or maybe some criminal background, mental health struggles, addiction struggles. Right. Now, that model, given the overall capitalist model that we're working under seems to be the one that makes sense, because it doesn't make sense. Oftentimes, as far as profits are concerned to build for those who can afford it, at least, I understand why we're focusing on the trickle down. But we should actually look also at building for people that are in these situations, and not just we scrambled to get together in emergency shelter grant, which I'm so thankful for the city that helped us do that. But that's a one and decades kind of a situation where we need to have intentional design and plans and efforts to actually do those sorts of projects and longer term and more consistently.


Do I completely agree with that. I think that it's also important to note that I personally believe that if you live and work in an area, that you should be able to afford to live comfortably in that area. So you know, rent prices I see kind of skyrocketing, they're slightly lowering a little bit right now. But they're staying pretty high to where people I know, you know, some college students that on the weekends, they go work in Minnesota because they can make more money, and then they come back during the week. And that's that. We have a lot of, you know, help wanted signs up around town, but we're not offering the wages that would keep people

Lorene Vedder 1:38:03

working here. Okay, well, we should probably wrap this up. Because we're getting, you know, we're closing the library in 20 minutes. But I appreciate everybody coming and giving your input and being so concerned about those that have so little if they can't find housing, and we want to solve those problems.

Sandy White 1:38:32

Can you continue there? And Eric, can you continue this conversation with maybe some strategic planning sessions that invite community members who are interested to participate in that and get engaged so that we can really have a well rounded discussion and identify all those specific needs, and then see how we move forward in a problem solving arena.

Luisa Gerasimo 1:38:59

I think we're poised to do that with some closing action team. And there's no forget the county, okay to do that, to digest that housing study. And

Randy Knaack 1:39:05

when when I know more, I will share more. But right now, like Jimmy said, we're working through the county, we're working through the city, and we don't have all the dots.

Vince Hague 1:39:16

I'd like to make one comment. I think you need to know, I think part of the process. The problem is going to get solved one way or the other. This is just a process and it will happen and it will get angry. It's not gonna be fundable. Done there's gonna be some blood on the streets.


We all agree it would be really easy.

Randy Knaack 1:39:41

You know, I want to thank everybody here.

Lorene Vedder 1:39:47

If you have any questions or want to make contacts with our speakers, you can go ahead when I write an email to you, you can write me there. Let me know your questions or concerns.

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Steve Hanson

Steve is a web designer and recently retired from running the hosting and development company Cruiskeen Consulting LLC. Cruiskeen Consulting LLC is the parent company of Wis.Community, and publication of this site continues after his retirement.

Steve is a member of LION Publishers, is active in Health Dunn Right, and is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of the greater Chippewa Valley

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