Mixed-Use Affordable Housing / by Tom Roessler

This article is the first in a series of articles discussing the vision that our city leaders have for our downtown which focusses on mixed-use development projects.  This article discusses the issue of affordable housing in downtown Appleton.

The Pitch:  The current Appleton Comprehensive plan which is the blueprint for downtown development discusses the need for more affordable housing.  As stated in the comprehensive plan: there is “a significant mismatch in our community in the availability of affordable housing and the ability of individuals and families to pay for such housing.”

In reality:  When a question was posed on the city website regarding rental rates for the mixed-use apartments going in downtown the City Hall replied, “From the projects that have been discussed, rent has been described as "market rate.”  “Think in terms of similar projects like RiverHeath.” “We aren't aware that any developers have announced what the actual rent prices will be as of yet.”  PerRiverHeath 2bed/2bath units range in price from $1,600-$2,300.  This is hardly a low-cost alternative for those wanting to live downtown at a reasonable cost.  Another mixed-use project that is in the works in downtown Appleton is the Zuelke building.  This mixed-use project will include luxury condos selling for a premium price.

The comprehensive plan also discusses the importance of attracting millennials to our downtown, but based on the projects currently in the works it doesn’t appear that millennials will be able to afford them.  A discussion with millennials that currently live downtown indicates they are concerned over the direction the city is taking.  They are worried about losing their current affordable downtown apartments.

A question was posed to our alderman relating to the mixed-use apartment rent.  His response was, “We've heard repeatedly over the years that the demand for housing downtown is very high compared to very limited supply.” “Given the estimated value of the finished property, I don't think we're talking about low-income apartments here.” “I expect there's more than enough demand to fill a small building of market rate or even luxury apartments.”  Are our city leaders out of touch or what?  It appears that our city leaders are more interested in raising tax revenue than meeting the needs of its residents.