Study shows lack of housing in Dodge County

Russ Kashian, a professor and director of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Fiscal and Economics Research Center, presented a study, which revealed the lack of housing in Dodge County.

JUNEAU — There’s not much affordable housing available in Dodge County, according to a recent study presented to the executive committee Monday.

And it’s likely to get worse, said Russ Kashian.

Kashian, a professor and director of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Fiscal and Economics Research Center, along with his research associate, Clayton Gallmann, presented their work before more than 20 municipal and county officials.

“Dodge County has somewhat of an affordable housing challenge,” Kashian said. “It isn’t as enormous as it is in other communities, primarily because the housing prices here are a little less expensive. The challenge is that as Dodge County becomes more and more popular, and it will as the push comes up from Dane County and Jefferson County and they discover Dodge County, the challenge will become greater and the reason is that the supply of housing is very tight.”

He said the short supply of houses on the market will increase prices, as seen in the current market. New housing starts have decreased significantly over the past year, mainly because of increased costs and the decrease in building materials.

Kashian was opposed to the belief that millennials don’t want to purchase homes like their parents have done in their lifetimes.

“The rate of home ownerships among millennials (people reaching young adulthood in the early 21st Century) is nearly the same as it was for baby boomers (people born from 1946 to 1964, during the post-World War II baby boom),” he said, adding that each generation is slightly lower than the previous one. “It changes slightly, but it’s not a big number. It’s not going from 67% to 40%. It’s going from 67% to 63% or 64%. So this idea that as your children and grandchildren get older they’re not going to want to own a home anyhow is not accurate. They want to own a home just like you and I. We will continue to have that push in demand.”

Kashian said demand will remain at critical levels at the lower end of the income scale as house prices continue to increase, especially for those with a limited income.

Gallmann, a University of Wisconsin-Whitewater senior, presented Dodge County housing analysis slides revealing that the median home price in Dodge County jumped from $132,321 in 2016 to $195,000 in April 2021. Gallmann said that compares to $289,900 in the south-central region of the state and $235,000 around the state.

Watertown Mayor Emily McFarland said her city is working to allow, and is in the process of building, smaller homes on smaller lots to meet the growing need of those wanting homes.

“There’s a need, but it’s about a balance,” McFarland said. “It’s about the rehabilitative need versus the new needs in our city and striking the right balance between them.”

McFarland said finding the balance is not something municipalities can do on their own. She said Dodge County can’t use a “broad brush” to help all of its communities.

According to the housing study, the City of Watertown has approximately 1.6 months of inventory to meet the current demand of single-family housing.

The study also found there are 46% of households that will struggle to find adequate housing based on their income levels.

The analysis also projected there will be an increase of 981 additional households in Watertown between 2020 and 2030; and 320 new housing units built during the same time period, but it is projected Watertown will be 661 housing units short by 2030.

In Juneau, the study projected there are nearly five months of inventory to meet its current demand of single-family housing.

The study revealed there are 35% of households that will also struggle to find adequate housing based on their income levels in Juneau.

The analysis also projected there will be an increase of 32 households by 2030 and five projected new housing units constructed between 2020 and 2030, but the City of Juneau is projected to be short 27 homes by 2030.

“The housing shortage is a problem for both small and large communities in Dodge County,” Beaver Dam Mayor Becky Glewen said.

Glewen said tax incremental financing is one of the few tools to help developers build affordable housing. Cities can use deferred tax dollars from the developments involved to cover the cost of infrastructure, such as roads, utilities and site work, she said. Costs are reimbursed by the higher valuation of the development.

Kashian said TIFs do not work well for residential housing as infrastructure costs are almost always too high to be recovered. He said state law limits TIF funding for housing purposes.

He said cities can do things to allow for affordable housing options, even if there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer.

Kashian urged municipalities to become “more user-friendly” to developers. He also said cities should make more use of their limited supply of land.

“The signs out there are still negative. In the next 10 years, the housing problem will grow worse,” Kashian said. “Prices will go up. Rents will go up. And it will impact the lower end of the market.”

Following the presentation, Dodge County Administrator Jim Mielke said the draft report will be finalized and will go before the full Dodge County Board of Supervisors.

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