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Federal funds help push Green Bay affordable housing project past finish line

Project will create 43-unit complex, with 36 units reserved for low-income renters

Green Bay’s City East Center
Green Bay’s City East Center project is a federally funded affordable housing development that will add 43 units to the city’s housing stock, with 36 going toward low income families. The project broke ground in August 2023. (Joe Schulz/WPR)

Like many communities across the country, Green Bay has been struggling with a shortage of affordable housing. A new, federally-funded development on the city’s east side hopes to help.

Senior Advisor to the President Tom Perez visited the development Thursday to see those federal funds in action. He was joined by Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich and Brown County United Way CEO Robyn Davis.

Together, they toured City East Center, a three-story affordable housing project that broke ground last August.

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According to the city, the more than $10 million project is funded, in part, through the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, and a $1 million federal grant. City East Center is being built on previously vacant land that was owned by the city. 

It includes 43 apartments, 36 of which will be for households earning less than 60 percent of the area’s median income. The local United Way will occupy the first floor and serve as a community gathering space.

“This is partnership in action,” Perez said. “This is people’s taxpayer dollars being put to good use to enable 43 families to have remarkably wonderful housing and support services that are literally right in their building.”

Officials tour housing development in Green Bay
Brown County United Way CEO Robyn Davis, right, talks to Senior White House Advisor Tom Perez, left, and Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich about the City East Center project on April 18, 2024. Joe Schulz/WPR

Officials said they anticipate the construction project to be done by the end of July. Rental applications are already open.

Davis said the City East Center will become the cornerstone for the Brown County United Way’s Thriving Neighborhood Initiative, aimed at strengthening the community. 

“Place matters, and being in the community with the community that we serve is of paramount importance to our mission,” Davis said. “It will create a new collaborative space to bring services, programming and resources to both City East residents and the residents of the surrounding neighborhood.”

While local officials expressed optimism that the project would help address the city’s affordable housing shortage, the Republican Party of Brown County criticized the project.

In a statement, county Republicans blamed inflation for why Green Bay residents struggle to find affordable housing, saying prices have skyrocketed under the Biden administration.

“The federal government’s out-of-control deficits have fueled this destructive inflation, and yet Biden and the partisan Democrat mayor of Green Bay believe we are gullible enough to celebrate their federally funded ‘solution’ to their federally funded problem,” the Brown County GOP said in a statement.

Landlords have said inflation has contributed to rising rents, but Green Bay has been struggling with an affordable housing shortage for years.

Senior White House Advisor Tom Perez, left, talks with Brown County United Way CEO Robyn Davis inside Green Bay’s City East Center Development on April 18, 2024. Joe Schulz/WPR

A 2020 housing market study commissioned by the city found Green Bay needed between 3,314 and 7,441 rental units and between 4,052 and 9,098 owner-occupied units by 2040 to keep up with demand.

And the issue isn’t exclusive to Green Bay. Developers and housing advocates have said Wisconsin didn’t build enough housing units following the 2008 Great Recession. 

The state needs to build at least 140,000 housing units by 2030 to keep pace with current demand, and 227,000 units if Wisconsin hopes to grow its working-age population, according to a 2023 report by Forward Analytics, the research arm of the Wisconsin Counties Association.

Genrich called the City East Center “one of the most exciting developments” in Green Bay. He said it wouldn’t be possible without partnerships with local nonprofits, as well as the state and federal government. 

He added the city received nearly $24 million in ARPA funding, which has helped pay for an array of projects in the city

“For the project just behind us, there’s an ARPA loan in there that really got us over the top. There’s low income housing tax credits that were critical to making this project possible in the first place,” Genrich said. “It just required a ton of work, thought and commitment to prioritizing affordable housing and quality living for our residents here.”

Senior White House Advisor Tom Perez, right, smiles next to Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich as he tours the City East Center housing development on April 18, 2024. Joe Schulz/WPR