FOX CITIES, Wis. (WFRV) – A new study shines light on the extent of housing inventory challenges in the Fox Cities.

According to the study, the Fox Cities needs between 10,910 and 17,738 new housing units by 2020 to satisfy housing demand. Broken down more narrowly to just Appleton, the city needs between 2,640 and 4,293 new housing units.

“I wasn’t surprised because we’re such a vibrant and growing community, I have a sense of what is really happening in the construction and real estate industries there’s really a lot of challenges we’re facing,” said Kara Homan, who is the community and economic development director for the city of Appleton.

Homan said that supply chain issues, labor shortages, and federal interest rate hikes have all negatively impacted housing inventory in the area. According to U.S. census data, Appleton’s population has grown by about 3,000 people since 2010 which has further strained housing inventory. She said these are problems facing communities around the country and in Northeast Wisconsin.

Local Five News recently documented similar challenges in Oshkosh.

“We’ve been very proactive about making updates to our zoning codes and subdivision codes to make sure that builders can build the type of products that various price points of coding are demanding,” said Homan who also said the city has set up a financing system that encourages development at all price points.

Homan also said that maintaining existing housing inventory is something her department will prioritize moving forward. She said the city will aggressively work to reach the 2030 housing need goals outlined in the study.

Housing inventory impacts people at all income levels which is why Kristal Knudtson and others at the Salvation Army of the Fox Cities also paid close attention to the study.

Knudtson said low inventory is another item on a long list of barriers for their clients, who are usually low-income individuals, to get housing.

Some of these barriers include having bad credit and some landlords simply won’t rent to low-income individuals because they are afraid they won’t be able to make rent each month. Knudtson said they’ve had clients who escaped domestic violence, but then had trouble renting because their incomes went from two people to just one.

Many of the Salvation Army’s clients qualify for Section 8 housing which means they cover a certain percentage of their rent and the federal government covers the rest. Knudtson said that being on Section 8 limits the number of places people can live and landlords they can work with.

She said that landlords also aren’t renting as much right now because they are still recovering from money lost during the pandemic.

“My advice to our clients and anybody in the low income or section 8 just be patient know that we have a group out there, we’re doing studies we’re trying to find ways to pass different laws so you can’t be denied being rented just because you have section 8.”

Knudtson said that the Salvation Army of the Fox Cities is part of an area group exploring options to make the housing search easier for low-income individuals. She said one of the things that she hopes municipalities consider moving forward is creating housing for people at all income levels.