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An aerial view of Lake Geneva in 2017.

LAKE GENEVA

A former Lake Geneva alderman is slamming an affordable housing development proposed by the Walworth County Housing Authority, saying enough local housing options already exist.

“I think we have our share of subsidized housing,” Bill Huntress said. “… I just don’t think Lake Geneva needs it.”

The proposed income-based, 28-unit development near Wells and Curtis streets is a joint venture between the housing authority and Keystone Developers of Oshkosh. The Lake Geneva City Council has yet to vote on the proposal.

Earlier this month, the Walworth County Board approved giving the housing authority $50,000 for the development. The housing authority’s offices would shift to the building, and the authority would manage the tenants.

Keystone, which has purchased the property, would manage the development, Walworth County Housing Authority Executive Director Sarah Boss told The Gazette earlier this month.

Huntress, who served on the Lake Geneva City Council for five terms, said Friday more housing in Lake Geneva is unnecessary. His comments differ greatly from many who have said Walworth County has a shortage of available affordable housing units.

Huntress said opposition to the project from residents is growing.

He wondered why people who receive government aid struggle to find housing and speculated it’s because they are “bad renters.”

“They don’t respect people’s property,” Huntress said about renters who receive government assistance but cannot find housing. “They’re not responsible, and apparently, they don’t appreciate what they get.

“I think some of those folks need to change their lifestyle, and then maybe they can find a place to rent.”

Lake Geneva Mayor Tom Hartz sits on the housing authority’s board of directors.

According to the Lake Geneva Regional News, Hartz has said the city is in need of more affordable housing units.

The median household income in Lake Geneva is $49,688, according to Data USA, and the median property value is $186,800. The median property value in Lake Geneva is $17,500 more than the median property value in Wisconsin, according to Data USA.

Earlier this month, Boss told The Gazette there has been a significant decline in affordable housing options in Walworth County over the past few years.

She said the higher property values around the county’s lakes contributes to the shortage.

In April, The Gazette reported skyrocketing homeless enrollment in the Delavan-Darien School District was in part driven by a lack of affordable housing for low-income residents in Walworth County.

In a report last year, the Wisconsin Policy Forum found that Walworth County is one of the five most rent-burdened counties in Wisconsin and that more than 50% of residents spend more than 30% of their monthly income on rent.

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