Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. March 28, 2021.

Editorial: Affordable housing is statewide need

There are some reactions that we know we're going to get when certain stories run. There are going to be strong statements in response to courts stories, especially if the victims in a case are children. When there's a story on road work, people will complain about the condition of other streets.

When there's a story on new housing, people will question whether anyone can afford it. And on that, they often have a point.

Housing prices are rising far faster than incomes. A report earlier this month on winter home sales showed the median price for a home in Eau Claire County was up 11.7% compared to the prior year. That's a substantial jump, but it paled in comparison to some others. Chippewa County was up 23%. Dunn County leapt by more than 26%.

Part of the issue is the remarkably low inventory for homes on the market. Basic supply and demand suggests that when there is a shortage of a desired commodity, the price goes up. Right now, homes are in short supply. New construction should help, but that's months away from the date any project turns the first spade full of dirt.

The tight housing market is also driving people to apartment living. But when you have people seeking apartments who, under normal circumstances, might buy a house, that creates pressure there, too. And people know it.

In mid-March we wrote an article about a proposed development near the Cannery District. Most of the comments wondered about the cost, and the commenters generally agreed there is a lack of affordable housing in the area. One person wrote that rent "is just too expensive for anything half way (sic) decent" near Eau Claire.

The concern isn't new. A May 2020 article about a developer getting nearly half a million dollars to ensure affordable rents drew positive responses from readers. Almost a decade earlier, in February 2011, the Leader-Telegram ran an article about hopes for construction of new homes that were slightly smaller than most new builds, with a correspondingly lower price tag.

But that 2020 article also noted two other projects in Eau Claire had their prospects significantly dimmed when they lost out on similar credits. The system of credits the three developers applied for was competitive. Projects were weighed against each other, which meant when a project received funding others could not.

The pressure on people who can't afford market-rate housing shows up throughout Wisconsin. A report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition showed there were approximately 82 homes available AND affordable for every 100 Wisconsin residents who earned 50% of the area median income. The description is critical. The raw number of affordable housing units doesn't mean much if none of them are available to people who need a place.

Solutions are not going to be easy to come by. When housing is built, it is generally part of a business plan. While not every company puts profits ahead of all other concerns, all for-profit entities certainly need to be aware of the bottom line. You can't reasonably ask a company to voluntarily put itself out of business in the name of the common good.

That likely leaves a continuing need for credits in some shape or form to defray the effects of a lower income from sales or rentals. Both the state and federal governments have such programs. But there are also cautionary lessons to be learned from well-intentioned but flawed efforts to develop large-scale public housing in the latter half of the 20th century.

The question is whether the will exists in either legislature to expand such programs. Wisconsin's need is real. There is clearly pressure on the housing market, and the prices reflect that shortage.

Wages aren't all that defines the middle class. Comfortable housing has long stood as a symbol of it, too. Preservation of that ideal may not be simple or easy, but it remains essential.

___

Kenosha News. March 29, 2021.

Editorial: Evers administration doing well on COVID vaccinations

We don't hesitate to criticize elected officials when we feel it's warranted, so it's only fair that we point out when we think they've done something well.

On Jan. 10, in this space, we published an editorial: "Gov. Evers, where is the vaccine rollout plan?" As you can tell by the headline, we were critical of the pace of preparation for COVID-19 vaccinations.

"We would urge you to focus on this priority and take some time out from your ongoing feud with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, over COVID relief legislation … Right now, focus on the vaccine rollout and show us the plan," we wrote.

We're here today to say: Governor, we're happy to see the progress that has been made.

Wisconsin ranks 16th nationwide in the percentage of people who have gotten at least one dose, at 27.2%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is ahead of the national average of 25.3%, the Associated Press reported. Wisconsin has also ranked near the top nationally in the efficiency of turning around vaccine once it is available for use.

As of Tuesday, nearly 73% of people over age 65 had received at least one dose and 15% of the state's population age 16 and over were fully vaccinated, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

A local vaccination clinic opened on Tuesday at Regency Mall in Racine, and was on pace to use up its full allotment of 1,170 doses for the week. Appointment slots were quickly filling for next week, with many still available the week of April 5.

The nurse who gave a Kenosha News reporter her vaccine shot on Friday said they are expecting to vaccinate 2,500 people that day at Kenosha County Public Health's vaccine site at the former Shopko on 52nd Street.

As noted above, Evers and the leaders of the Republican majority in the state Senate and Assembly have rarely seen eye to eye since he took office.

Republicans blamed Evers for an initially slow rollout of the vaccine when it first became available in mid-December, the AP reported. But last week both Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu praised the ongoing vaccination effort, now entering its fourth month.

"Our state over the last month or two has done a really good job getting people vaccinated," LeMahieu said.

Vos added: "Kudos to the administration for actually doing a better job."

If Speaker Vos is being complimentary to the Evers administration, something must be going well.

That something, vaccinating Badger Staters against COVID-19, is going well.

Congratulations to Gov. Evers and his administration. Keep up the good work.

___

La Crosse Tribune. March 28, 2021.

Editorial: Watch some spring football, and see sports leading the way

Are you ready for some football? Yes, local spring football is here just as the NCAA basketball tournaments are heating up and Major League Baseball is nearly ready for first pitch of its long season.

And yet it feels right.

Many area football teams missed their chance to compete in the fall due to rising COVID-19 cases and concerns. They're getting their opportunity to play now, not for championships or anything. Just for the love of the game.

"I'm glad to be back," senior Cooper Paisley said after the first official practice for Logan High School's alternate season earlier this month. "I've been waiting to go since the end of junior year."

Logan, Central, Holmen and Sparta are MVC teams with alternate schedules, and they are joined by Arcadia, G-E-T and Black River Falls from the Coulee Conference. The entire Scenic Bluffs Conference — minus Hillsboro — is also competing in a spring season.

Logan will play five games, four at Swanson Field and one on the road at Superior. "I can't complain about what (the season) is," Paisley said. "Everybody's excited to be here; I don't know anyone who isn't."

If you pass a stadium, stop and applaud. They are helping to show us the way.

In fact, sports locally and nationally have shown us the way in recent weeks. State championship basketball was played without a hitch for two weekends at the La Crosse Center. And now Minnesota is holding its basketball championships, late but just right.

Nationally, many of us again are glued to the NCAA Tournament games, being held with few fans in venues only in Indiana for the men and Texas for the women. If you are a fan of college wrestling, you saw three days of televised action from St. Louis with no problems. It was so ... "normal."

And off to a somewhat normal start will be MLB baseball on April 1, after a full spring training. Some fans will be able to attend at games around the country.

It is being done, and sports has been showing the way for months now. So many winter sports and teams competed through the season. It's a great credit to the student athletes, coaches, athletic directors and officials.

We watched while we continued to meet via Zoom. Some schools still are not back and many governments continue to meet remotely. We're all crossing our fingers, hoping events can be held this spring and summer.

Can we mask up and start meeting? Can we open offices that have been closed? Can we get in the game, again?

That's for each to decide, but as you look around sports is giving us a model. And we're better for it.

END