Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
November 2003
Bureau of Housing Offers Range of Assistance Programs

Commerceís Bureau of Housing (BOH): 1) provides federally-funded housing grants or loans through local organizations; 2) channels state housing funds though local partners; 3) coordinates its housing assistance programs with those of other state and local housing agencies; 4) develops state housing policy; and 5) provides housing information and technical assistance. The bureau distributes more than $40 million annually to improve and increase housing choices for Wisconsin residents of modest means.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)
BOH administers Wisconsin's federally-funded CDBG Housing program for small cities (cities, towns, and villages with populations less than 50,000 and counties other than Milwaukee, Waukesha and Dane). These eligible units of local government compete for CDBG funds that are used for housing and neighborhood improvement programs principally benefiting low- and moderate-income households.

Over $7 million is awarded each year for 18-month grants. Approximately 18 communities are awarded funds yearly. CDBG funds are used for various housing and neighborhood revitalization activities including housing rehabilitation, acquisition, relocation, demolition of dilapidated structures, and handicap accessibility improvements. Special projects that create additional affordable housing units are also eligible for funding. For program information call (608) 267-3682.

Community Development Block Grant - Emergency Assistance (CDBG-EAP)
BOH has established a $2 million Emergency Fund for disasters in communities eligible to participate in the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant Housing Program. CDBG-EAP funds may be used to repair uninsured housing damage caused by floods, tornadoes or other disasters. The funds may also be used to reimburse property owners for disaster-related repairs made prior to the receipt of the grant funds, as well as to replace housing units severely damaged in the disaster. CDBG-EAP funds are intended to primarily benefit low- to moderate-income households. Program information may be obtained by calling (608) 267-3682.

Federal Home Investment Partnerships Program (HOME)
The State of Wisconsin receives about $14 million in federal HOME housing funds per year. The funds are used to create housing opportunities for low-income households.

Eligible activities include: 

  • Rental Rehabilitation Program (608-267-6908) to improve rental properties serving lower-income households in several Wisconsin communities; 
  • Home Repair Program (608-266-9185) administered by a statewide network of community-based agencies making needed home repairs and accessibility improvements in owner-occupied units; 
  • HOME Homebuyer program (608-267-6904) which provides down payment/closing cost and rehabilitation assistance for purchases of homes; and
  • Rental Housing Development (608-267-0602) activities, which include new construction and acquisition/rehabilitation projects undertaken by eligible housing development organizations and through a set-aside combining HOME funds with WHEDA bonding or tax credit programs.

Homeless Programs
The Bureau administers several federal and state housing programs that provide shelter and services for individuals and families who are homeless.

  • Over $1.13 million in operating subsidies, through the State Shelter Subsidy Grant, is awarded annually to agencies providing assistance to homeless persons.
  • Interest Bearing Real Estate Trust Account (IBRETA) funds are collected annually from Wisconsin financial institutions. The total amount of these funds is distributed to homeless programs.
  • A total of $375,000 is available annually for transitional housing and service program expansion through the State Transitional Housing Program.
  • The HUD Emergency Shelter Grant Program provides approximately $1.8 million annually to agencies for emergency shelter and transitional housing programs.
  • The Bureau distributes over $275,000 in Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) funds per year. Last year the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin received these HUD resources to serve individuals and families affected by AIDS/HIV across the state outside of the Milwaukee Metro Area.
  • On an annual basis, the Bureau competes on the federal level for HUD Continuum of Care Supportive Housing funds. These funds support a variety of transitional and permanent housing programs for homeless persons in the areas of the state outside of Milwaukee, Madison and Racine. BOH receives approximately $4-$5 million each year.
  • Wisconsin Service Point is a Web-enabled database software program implemented in Wisconsin to help assess the scope of homelessness and the level of services available for homeless persons in the state. It includes over 100 partner agencies.
  • The FrontDoor program is a Web-enabled software database program of social service agencies and programs, and affordable housing units throughout Wisconsin. It is expected to be on line in early 2004.

Grant cycles for state and federal homeless programs occur throughout the year. Detailed information about grant application and contract cycles, as well as Continuum of Care activities, is available from the BOH at (608) 266-8273.

Housing Cost Reduction Initiative (HCRI)
Local sponsors compete for state HCRI funds to provide assistance to reduce the housing costs of low- and moderate-income households and encourage the purchase of affordable housing units. The money may be used for a wide variety of housing activities, from closing costs and down payment assistance for homebuyers, to rent and security deposit assistance for renters and homeless persons. The program uses funds to help people stabilize their housing situation, enabling individuals and families to obtain affordable housing.

HCRI funds are generally combined with federal HOME homebuyer funds to provide flexibility for funding recipients and help generate required federal match. Each year approximately 23 awards are made from the $2.8 million in available HCRI and $3 million in HOME Homebuyer funds.

Organizations that are eligible to compete for funds include local governments, housing authorities, non-profit and for-profit corporations, and Native American Indian Tribes. Additional information is available by calling (608) 267-6904.

Local Housing Organization Grant (LHOG) Program
Through state LHOG grants, the Bureau provides assistance to local housing organizations to improve their capacity to provide affordable housing opportunities for low-income households. These funds can be used for a variety of activities, including housing counseling, grantsmanship, administrative costs, and other expenses related to improving the organization's ability to serve local housing needs. LHOG grants cannot be used to pay for construction or other capital improvements and requires a one-to-one match.

Approximately $500,000 is awarded annually to about 18 local organizations. The grants allow local organizations to develop a variety of affordable housing initiatives. Organizations that are eligible to compete for funds include housing authorities, Native American Indian Tribes and for-profit and non-profit corporations. Information on the LHOG Program may be obtained by calling (608) 267-6905.

Wisconsin Fresh Start Program
The Wisconsin Fresh Start Program grants are awarded to agencies to establish and sustain programs based on the Operation Fresh Start, Inc., service model. The program is designed to provide on-site housing construction and rehabilitation work experience, off-site academic classes, and supportive services for at-risk young people - primarily high school dropouts - ages 16-24. Funding sources originate from HUD and several state agencies. Information regarding the Fresh Start Program may be obtained by calling (608) 267-2737.

Policy Development
As the state's designated housing agency, the Bureau provides information, research, and guidance on housing issues to the Administration and the Legislature; one responsibility is to prepare housing impact analysis on pending legislation. It also conducts extensive outreach efforts, both formal and informal, analyzes current housing trends and programs, and develops housing initiatives that will address gaps in Wisconsin's housing stock.

State Consolidated Plan
The Bureau is responsible for working with other agencies and preparing the state's Consolidated Plan for addressing housing and community development needs. The Plan provides a statistical review of housing conditions in Wisconsin and outlines strategies for providing affordable and special needs housing where needed. The plan is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to be eligible for various funding programs. It is also used to certify the consistency of certain local federally funded projects and public housing authority plans. The Bureau is also responsible for compiling an annual performance report that summarizes achievements towards meeting Consolidated Plan goals and a Fair Housing Plan. For more information call (608) 264-6110.

Other Services

The Department of Administrationís Division of Intergovernmental Relations Demographic Services Center and the Bureau of Housing, in conjunction with the UW Madisonís Applied Population Laboratory, offers an online data retrieval system to display various housing, population and other information called WisStat. The data is mainly comprised from the U.S. Census Bureau and is available at the state, county and municipal levels. The information is especially helpful to communities and developers completing need assessments.

The Web address for the system is http://wisstat.wisc.edu. Questions or comments on WisStat should be directed to Jim Beaudoin of the Applied Population Laboratory (jmbeaudoin@facstaff.wisc.edu) or Bob Naylor of the Demographic Services Center (bob.naylor@doa.state.wi.us).

Training/Outreach/Public Awareness
Providing information about housing is accomplished through a variety of publications, information systems, training sessions, public hearings and conferences. The Bureau also works toward improving public understanding and awareness of housing issues. Input regarding how the state can help with development of affordable housing is continuously sought from organizations and individuals. The Bureau also handles a variety of housing inquiries from individuals, and supplies fact sheets and resource guides.

For further information on housing programs, contact Marty Evanson, 608/267-2713 or mevanson@commerce.state.wi.us.

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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