As need for housing grows in Eau Claire, two groups help family create a home

Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 10:33 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - In Eau Claire, the number of families in need of a place to live is growing. That’s according to the city’s housing authority.

One partnership, plus a little creativity, is looking to help address this issue.

For some groups specializing in creating homes like Habitat for Humanity, one of the limiting factors to what they can do is land.

One of the nonprofit’s latest projects is showing how some collaboration and innovation is making a difference in the Chippewa Valley.

A couple months ago, the City of Eau Claire’s Housing Authority had 390 families on its housing waiting list. Now that’s grown to over 400.

“Whether the people on that list are ready for home ownership or not, I think it’s a good indication of where we are heading with the need for affordable housing,” said the organization’s executive director Keith Johnathan.

As part of its work connecting community members with subsidized housing, the housing authority bought a home on Mercury Avenue in Eau Claire. Johnathan then discovered the purchase could help two families.

“When I realized they were two separate lots, I’m like: ‘Well that looks like another opportunity,’” Johnathan said. “We could subdivide that lot and put it back into two parcels and then we’ve got a vacant lot for some more affordable housing construction.”

Creating homes is something the Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity is known for.

“We love partnering with cities,” said John Dawson, the nonprofit’s executive director. “We’re really good at building, and they have a need for affordable housing, and in this particular case, Keith Jonathan gifted us this lot for $1.”

After buying the lot from the city, Dawson said they decided to try something new for this specific project.

“This is a home from Wausau Homes,” Dawson said. “They build it all in a factory, and it comes out in panels, and so this morning at seven o’clock we just had the basement foundation, and now we’re putting on a roof.”

Wausau Homes builds the components of the building then those pieces are put together at the site. That makes the whole process take less time.

Dawson said they’ve gotten done in one day the amount of work that usually would take three weeks.

“I think this’ll be a pattern that we’ll try to use,” Dawson said. “We can build through the winter this way. We can put the houses up faster. It’s safer for volunteers to be inside doing drywall, painting, flooring and things like that.”

While it’ll likely take another two to three months to get it ready for a family to move in, Dawson said this home is well underway.

Dawson said not every build will be a panelized home, but it is a process he hopes to use more in the future. This specific building will be home sweet home for a mom and her two children when it’s done.