Summary: This year-long effort was designed to raise public awareness of the relationship between affordable housing and true self-sufficiency for Wisconsin’s working families, particularly graduates of the Wisconsin Works (W-2) program. Project steps included a report, a series of community forums and a one-day statewide conference.
Wisconsin Partnership’s role: Project Co-Sponsor/Advocacy
Staff contact: Kristin Silva
Status of work: Completed in 2002
The Working Families Project was a collaborative effort of the Partnership, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, WISCAP and Hudson Institute. It began with a report entitled Making Housing Work for Working Families, which described the work and housing situation of a fictional woman named Ronda, a single mother of two young boys. Relying on existing studies of the W-2 program, the report examined Ronda’s ability to climb the housing ladder. It also analyzed a variety of federal, state and local housing programs as possible sources of assistance.
The collaborators next embarked on a series of community forums under the title Climbing the Housing Ladder. Sessions in Appleton, Kenosha, Madison, Menomonie, Racine and Wausau brought together housing and human service professionals and advocates, local government officials, members of the faith-based community, and other concerned citizens for exploration of questions such as the following:
- Why are working families homeless?
- What obstacles keep working families from finding and maintaining stable, decent, affordable rental housing?
- Why are some working families unable to purchase homes?
Because communities are different, each forum produced different results. However, the forums were a good first step toward better informing the community and identifying possibilities for collaborative efforts.
The Working Families Project culminated in a one-day conference also entitled Making Housing Work for Working Families, held in April 2002. Presenters included Barbara Sard, Director of Housing Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; Cushing Dolbeare, founder of the National Low Income Housing Coalition; and Joel Rogers, Director of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS).
Speakers’ presentations covered a wide array of both existing programs and proposed strategies for strengthening the connection between affordable housing and work, including employer-assisted home ownership, work-based housing vouchers, living wage policies, low-cost construction alternatives and transportation-based assistance.