For too many working residents of Door County, finding a home is a challenge. Traditionally a popular tourist destination and second-home market, Door County offers our working families what are sometimes unsurmountable obstacles to home ownership. Year-round residents have had to compete with second-home seekers for housing. Local businesses have struggled to find seasonal help due to a shortage of short-term rental options. In more recent years, increased job growth, increased tourism, and a population aging more quickly than the rest of the state have compounded the challenge.
Door County’s shortage of housing for working households and seasonal workers, as quantified in the 2019 housing study, presents a serious threat to the preservation of the county’s character, economy, and vitality. Door County is aging much faster than the rest of the state and country, yet younger people are not moving to the county, at least in part due to the lack of affordable housing options. This age imbalance is unsustainable and leads to inadequate human resources for essential services.
Our work helps bridge the gap between a market priced home and home ownership for working families. On one side of that gap is property values that are out of reach for many working families, coupled with an alarmingly low inventory of modestly priced homes. On the other side of the gap is the modest income of many who live and work, people who are vital to our quality of life and our community’s well-being.
There is a disconnect between market rate and year-round workforce income. If 30-35% of gross income is required to cover a home mortgage and associated expenses such as real estate taxes and insurance so that they have enough left over to cover health care, child care, food and the expenses of life, the price of new or quality older homes is too high in Door County due to demand from vacation home buyers and higher material costs. Without subsidies of $60,000 – $75,000 per home many year-round workforce incomes will not, with 30-35% of their income be able to cover the cost of a mortgage and other associated expenses with whatever are the interest rates over the longer term where we want our homes to be affordable.