‘A housing crisis:’ Affordable housing in Eau Claire

Individuals from Chippewa Valley spoke about the need for affordable housing in Eau Claire

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Photo by Rebecca Mennecke

The room overflowed with people wanting to attend the city council meeting.

Eau Claire City Council met for a listening session Monday in an effort to encourage community discussion and input on the current issue of affordable housing in Eau Claire.

City Attorney Stephen Nick said the event was intended for city council members to listen to the voices of community members.

“The point is to welcome people up to the podium,” Nick said.

Erica Kraft, a second-year organizational communication student, said she was attending the event for one of her classes and was focusing on issues that affect the public.

So many people attended the event that, not only was a separate room allotted with a livestream of the discussion set up for people who wanted to watch but not speak at the microphone, but individuals overflowed out of the county boardroom, many standing in the back.

Affordable housing is an issue that many said was an important one to discuss.

“This is an issue that we need to take a hard look at and focus on,” Andrew Werthmann, the acting council president, said. “This is an ongoing issue.”

From young to old, from all walks of life and all parts of Eau Claire, members of the community had only one request: affordable housing to fit the needs of Eau Claire’s diverse community.

Marlo Orth, the president of St. John’s elderly housing, discussed how he sees many homeless elderly individuals seeking a place to live that they can afford.

“There’s such a need in this community,” Orth said.

He said recently, three homeless elderly men sought housing at St. John’s. Although having 125 apartments with only 20 non-subsidized apartments, he said this is not enough for the low-income or struggling senior citizens in the community.

Others voiced concerns for low-income individuals with disabilities and advocated for types of affordable housing that will allow these individuals to live independently.

One parent, Rebecca Anderson, said children had been left out of the conversation about affordable housing, and she wanted to mention how children are affected by their living situations.  

“Parents can’t provide because the housing wasn’t there,” Anderson said.

She pointed out that Eau Claire has a focus on student housing, but that the same focus has not been placed on places to live for low-income families.

Anderson said that she just wanted people to think about families who may be financially struggling and how the children are affected by this struggle.

Sarah Ferber, who voiced her advocacy for people with addiction who may find it challenging to find housing, said that there is no single solution to this problem.

“It’s gonna be a bunch of small solutions,” she said. “We can find the answer together.”

City Council encourages its fellow community members to voice their concerns on the issue by contacting a local council representative, with their contact information available on the Eau Claire City Council website.

Rebecca Mennecke can be contacted at [email protected].