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Couleecap working to create more affordable housing options across the Coulee Region

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 5:03 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - A Coulee Region nonprofit is working to provide more affordable housing options throughout its four-county service area.

For many years, the corner of 6th and Winnebago Street in La Crosse was vacant following a house fire, but now it’s the site of a new three-bedroom home for Michelle Manzy and her family.

“We’ve been renting for a while, and where we’ve been renting, every year the rent goes up,” Manzy said. “It’s just nice to have your own place where you can just have space, we have space now for our kids.”

The construction of the home was facilitated by Couleecap, whose Homeownership Program helped secure the property for Manzy’s family.

However, Community Development Director Ashley Lacenski says there were many other suitors for the home.

“We had a lot of applicants for this property, and I heard from numerous prospective home buyers and realtors about how hard it was to find a home,” Lacenski recalled.

Becky Koske, Couleecap’s Assistant Director of Housing and Community Services, says there’s an increasing number of people that are struggling to find long-term places to live.

“I think we’ve seen housing costs rise, particularly during the pandemic, people have been hit very hard,” Koske explained. “It’s been a struggle to maintain and afford housing, and all of the other things that go along with safe and stable living.”

Couleecap is trying to help those people who are in need of housing, but the nonprofit needs funding to do so.

Great Rivers United Way is stepping in to help, allocating $45,000 from its 2021 campaign for Couleecap’s Homeless Prevention, Supportive Housing, and Healthy Homes programs.

“It’s important that the money is there to fund programs that are bringing resources to people who struggle with housing,” United Way Executive Director Mary Kay Wolf said.

Lacenski says Couleecap is using multiple funding sources to broaden the scope of its housing support.

“We serve La Crosse, Monroe, Vernon, and Crawford counties,” Lacenski listed. “A lot of our work has been focused in La Crosse County and the City of La Crosse, but we also have an obligation to help our other communities.”

Couleecap’s next housing project is currently under construction in Prairie du Chien.

In addition to Couleecap, the United Way also provided funding to organizations such as Independent Living Resources, the Salvation Army of La Crosse, Western Dairyland, and the YWCA of La Crosse for safe and affordable housing initiatives.

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