One house at a time: Couleecap finds solutions to lack of affordable housing

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Affordable housing is an ongoing crisis in the city of La Crosse, but one local nonprofit is working toward a solution.

Owning a home isn’t an easy feat, but with the help of Couleecap, one family got the keys to the house of their dreams.

Someone else’s past.

“We started by receiving a lot donation from a previous Couleecap client who had lost their home in a fire,” said Ashley Lacenski, Couleecap’s community development director.

Can open doors for another family’s future.

“Today we are welcoming the new homeowners to their new house,” Lacenski said of David Gonzalez and Michelle Manzy, who have three children.

“They need a lot of space. They like to play and it’s just really important for us to have that space and to have a space for them to just be and call theirs,” Manzy said.

The parents, who are currently renters, applied for a home under the Coulee Housing Development program through Couleecap. Their application was approved.

“We didn’t expect it, you know?” Gonzalez said. “Because we applied and we thought it was going to take longer and we didn’t have any expectations to be honest.”

Couleecap works to provide affordable housing to La Crosse-area residents through a Community Development Block Grant from the city of La Crosse and La Crosse County’s demolition grant.

“Everyone deserves a place to live. Housing is a critical and important part of everyone’s lives,” Lacenski said.

“We provide down payment assistance to help make the home affordable, so we are providing $85,000 in down payment assistance,” Lacenski said.

Most people can afford homes that are around just $130,000, she said.

“There are more people than even rental units available,” Lacenski said. “There’s more people that are looking for homes that are for sale. We definitely need more affordable housing in the city of La Crosse, as well as our outlying communities too.”

As for Gonzalez and Manzy, they’re looking forward to spending time in their new home.

“It looks so different from the first time we were here to now,” Gonzalez said. “It’s really nice now and we’re really excited about everything.”

The final touches to the house will be added within the next week, making it ready for the family to move in, just in time for summer.

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