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Sheboygan County leaders work to address housing shortage

3,000 jobs to fill, but not enough places to live
Posted at 10:13 PM, Aug 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-07 23:13:33-04

Sheboygan County has the jobs and the people who want them, but they don't have enough places for those people to live. 

A county housing shortage is something local leaders have been working to fix. Several new apartment projects are going up and people are renting them almost as fast as developers can build them. 

For the last year, Kurt Nielsen says he has tried to find a home for his family in Sheboygan, after getting a new job at Nemschoff. 

"I've been looking non-stop since I got here," he said. 

And if you think your commute is bad, Nielsen says he goes back and forth between Sheboygan and North Carolina, every weekend. 

"When I was really intensely looking, they said there were 350 houses on the market," he said. "I've just kind of taken matters into my own hands. Just started seeing houses I liked, finding out who owned them and calling them saying 'hey, want to sell your house?'"  

His situation is all too common for employers in Sheboygan County, who have thousands of jobs to fill, but there's not enough housing for those new hires. 

Joseph Sheehan leads the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation. He says in just the last two years, they've added 500 new apartments to the market. 

"People said 'OK it's an issue, let's get on it' and we have," he said. "That doesn't mean we're done. Now the next step is what's the occupancy rate, how's that going and what's our next steps." 

Four apartment projects are currently under construction, with another seven in the planning stages. The projects range from luxury buildings to more affordable units. 

The former Washington School building was renovated and now offers units at a more affordable rate, to target the workforce level employee. Another similar project, Badger State Lofts is in the works. 

"We're not only looking at more apartment complexes, we're also looking at new subdivisions," said City of Sheboygan Mayor Michael Vandersteen. "So we have many different types of housing on the market." 

The effort has also now refocused to condos. Vandersteen says they haven't had any new condo developments in a long time so they are trying to attract developers. 

"We have a workforce development problem," said Vandersteen. "The more housing we have, the easier it will be to attract people to this community."