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New report reveals challenging housing affordability in Waukesha County

Housing in Waukesha County has become less accessible.
Stock Adobe
Housing in Waukesha County has become less accessible.

Housing affordability is a nationwide issue, but for certain parts of the county, this issue has become an existential crisis. Businesses, schools, hospitals, and the many necessary parts of our communities rely on a wide array of workers. As home and rent prices have skyrocketed, wages haven’t kept up, pushing more expensive areas — like Waukesha County — out of reach for many essential workers.

A new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum explores how this issue is affecting Waukesha County and some possible solutions. For Joe Peterangelo, a senior researcher with the forum and contributor on the article, the data paints a clear picture.

"We looked at both the home buyer market and the rental market in Waukesha County and it's pretty well known that it's an expensive place to live. But we actually found that the median value of homes in the county is higher than any other county in the state as of 2020," says Peterangelo.

The rise in the median cost of homes in the county means that fewer people will be able to afford to rent or own a property in Waukesha. Workers in fields like firefighters, carpenters, and electricians, among others, rarely have the means to live in such highly priced areas. This lack of accessible housing options discourages people from moving and working there. These trends, added to the increasing cost of building materials, contribute to the overall issue.

Some initiatives are being set in place to help make housing in the area more affordable. "It's called the Next Generation Housing Initiative, and this came from a similar realization that housing in Washington County — it's increasingly not attainable by first-time home buyers. And so the focus is to create more modest houses — smaller houses, smaller lots that are more affordable for first-time home buyers," says Peterangelo.

The full report is available here.


Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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