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Local shelters battling affordable housing shortage

Posted at 5:35 PM, Aug 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-02 18:35:09-04

WISCONSIN (NBC 26) — Local shelters say they’ve been noticing a rise in homelessness for years and they say a large part of the problem can be attributed to an affordable housing shortage that's impacting the area.

"We know right now we have about 4,000 units that we’re short on for people who are looking for a unit at an affordable rate so about $500 or less,” said Tara Prall, the supportive services director at Pillars Inc.

The lack of affordable housing makes it extremely difficult for low-income families who are displaced to find new housing that they can afford. Shelters say the shortage is causing more families to turn to homeless shelters.

"We see more families that come to us that are in a situation where they’re doing everything right, they’re working, they have a car, everything was going fine until something happened with their housing,” said Jessica Diederich, the president of Freedom House Ministries.

Especially after the federal eviction moratorium expired on July 31st, they say it's become even more difficult for renters to find landlords willing to rent to them.

"With people being in a situation where they’ve been evicted from a place, that now is on their record which is just one more hurdle they’re going to have to overcome in order to find a place to rent," Diederich said.

"We might see affordable housing impacted even more if landlords are buttoning up on their eligibility restrictions to avoid that potential again down the road," Prall said.

Additionally, with the housing market prime for selling, they say many families are also being displaced when their landlord decides to sell their property.

"There are landlords that will sell the property that they're renting to a family and the new landlord may not renew the lease when that time comes," Diederich said. "So the family has a certain amount of time to have another place to live and they can’t always find that.”

Both Freedom House Ministries and Pillars Inc. offer resources to help individuals avoid having to enter a shelter.

"We counsel people on how we can talk with landlords, how you can advocate for yourself," Prall said."What are some things we can do, maybe it’s paying double security deposit, to sweeten your application a little bit for these landlords?

But for those whose only option is seeking shelter, they say the affordable housing crisis has left many stranded, forcing them to stay for longer.

“People who are in our shelter are not able to find affordable housing to move on and they’ve done everything right," Diederich said. "It's just that there’s nothing out there that’s available for them."