Walworth County Government Center


The Walworth County Housing Authority will get a $50,000 infusion for an affordable housing development in Lake Geneva after the Walworth County Board approved the appropriation Tuesday.

But the contribution will be the last the county gives the organization.

Since 2015, Walworth County has appropriated between $12,000 and $13,000 annually to the housing authority. The one-time lump sum payment approved Tuesday is meant to provide long-term, sustainable support for the organization and suspend the need for future county aid, Walworth County Administrator Dave Bretl said.

Walworth County Housing Authority Executive Director Sarah Boss said Tuesday the organization is marching forward with plans to build an income-based, 28-unit affordable housing development in Lake Geneva near Wells and Curtis streets. Keystone Development of Oshkosh is developing the project and has purchased the property.

The development comes as Walworth County continues to face a massive affordable housing shortage.

Boss said there has been a significant decline in available and affordable housing in recent years. Walworth County’s higher tax base influences rents, Boss said, and discrepancies in property values in the county contribute to its affordable housing shortage.

“It’s been very challenging,” Boss said.

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.

Last year, the Wisconsin Policy Forum reported 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.

Boss said the housing authority would manage the tenants, and Keystone would manage the property. The housing authority’s offices also will shift to the new building. City of Lake Geneva officials have not yet approved permits for the project but have expressed support for it, Boss said.

Bretl on Tuesday told the finance committee, which approved the appropriation in a special meeting before the full board meeting, that the project would allow the housing authority to save money from renting office space and to collect fees from managing units.

“I think (the appropriation) is important because our ability to provide these community initiatives is going to go away in the future,” Bretl said. “If we can help this organization stand on its own feet, I think it’s a good thing.”

Boss said the housing authority is primarily funded by the federal government. The Walworth County Board formed the organization in 1979 and appoints its commissioners. Aside from yearly aid and appointments, the county is not involved with the housing authority, Boss said.

Discussions about the project with Keystone began a year and a half ago, Boss said. The development could include some Section 8 housing participants but primarily will be income-based. Rents likely would be based on bedroom sizes, Boss said.

Project completion is tentatively expected in fall, Boss said.

According to Tuesday’s resolution, construction on the development must begin within 12 months and be completed within 24 months of the resolution’s date. For at least five years, the project must house the housing authority’s offices and offer affordable housing.

Boss said Keystone is working on the project’s design.