Northern Wisconsin Cities Look To Meet Demand For Rental Housing

Some Communities Are Considering Landlord Licensing Programs

apartment construction
Montgomery County Planning Commission (CC-BY-SA)

Some northern Wisconsin cities are in dire need of adequate rental housing, with some local officials considering rental licensing programs to get units up to code.

According to Superior planning director Jason Serck, a housing study conducted by the city and Douglas County last year found demand for more than 1,900 housing units in the next decade for both the city and county. About half the need was in Superior itself.

The biggest slice of the demand is for rentals, Serck said. However, there’s a lack of adequate housing to meet that demand: “The last sizable market-rate rental situation was built in mid-1990s to late 1990s,” Serck said.

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Superior has roughly 11,000 housing units. The nearby city of Ashland has 1,000 rental units that make up about 30 percent of the overall housing stock, according to building inspector Bob Miller.

Miller said they have a surplus of homes people can rent because the city’s population was once larger than it is today. However, Miller said those homes were built around a century ago.

“A lot of these rentals are not in the best of condition. A lot of them are very old, outdated,” Miller said.

Both Superior and Ashland officials are now thinking about licensing programs as a way to solve the problem. However, some state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would prevent cities from requiring rental licenses. Supporters said the measure would keep good landlords from being lumped in with a few bad apples.