UW-La Crosse faculty, students research affordable housing shortage, suggest solutions

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UW-La Crosse students and faculty have developed a series of recommendations to help solve the city's shortage of affordable housing. (UWL photo)

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — UW-La Crosse faculty members and students studied the city’s affordable housing shortage for several months and devised possible solutions.
Carol Miller, a sociology and criminal justice professor, and student Ava Beaudot presented their findings Thursday at a meeting of the Habitat for Humanity-La Crosse Area’s Housing Advocacy Committee.
Kahya Fox, executive director for Habitat for Humanity-La Crosse Area, said the research will help guide the committee as it presses for resolutions.
The recommendations, which Miller and Beaudot compiled during several months of analyzing the committee’s data, range from increasing tenant protections and education to expanding existing housing programs.
“La Crosse is ahead of many communities in its efforts to identify barriers to affordable housing and in trying to address those problems with innovative programs and policies,” Miller and Beaudot said in their report. “However, as with all social issues, there is more work to be done.”
Discriminatory policies and practices often prevent people from securing decent rentals or affordable homes, their report noted. People with credit problems or criminal records face a particularly difficult climb, their research found.
The pair’s recommendations include:

  • Implementing policies to protect tenants and control rent, ensuring that housing remains accessible and affordable
  • Creating an education program covering rights and responsibilities for landlords and tenants
  • Expanding La Crosse’s Housing Replacement Program, through which the city revitalizes dilapidated homes and sells them
  • Zoning and constructing neighborhoods designed for smaller, more affordable homes.

UWL Associate Professor Song Chen and his mathematics and statistics students helped Miller and Beaudot analyze their data.
Habitat’s Fox said, “During our strategic planning, we will look at the statistics from our survey and other data compiled from a variety of regional surveys to inform us about the challenges facing residents.
After the committee identifies potential short- and long-term solutions, Fox said, “We will work with collaboration in our committee and do the hard work of removing policies that are barriers to fair and affordable housing, and improve local programs to increase citizen resources.”