Damakant Jayshi

Wausau’s Finance Committee on Wednesday approved three housing-related projects, including two new proposals, to receive ARPA funding.

In the funding request, Community Development officials said the projects qualify under the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.

Of these, a home buyer education project has a total budget of $60,000. ARPA funding will account for $34,000 of the total. The program is designed to assist new home buyers with necessary pre-purchase education and counseling related to the home buying process. The project aims to cover 50 new home buyers, each of whom will receive $500 as closing cost assistance, totaling $25,000, issued to the lender.

An annual administrative cost of $3,000 for three years is included in the request.

Counseling will be provided by an agency certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Wausau Community Development is a HUD certified pre-purchase counselor.

Previously the City Council sent the proposal back to the Finance Committee after some members deemed it unnecessary. Some Finance Committee members expressed concern the proposal will only meet the same fate again.

Committee Member Sarah Watson, from Dist. 8, asked for suggestions on making the counseling program more attractive, paving the way for its passage. Michael Martens, alder from Dist. 2, said the project suffers from a messaging problem. Martens said officials must clearly stress that the funds will not simply go into a home buyer’s pocket. He also suggested emphasizing that if people don’t take the training, their loan options will shrink, as certain loans will be off the table.

Chair of the Committee, Lisa Rasmussen said the project has a low funding level but would make a large impact. Wausau still has $10 million of ARPA funding yet to be awarded

The other two projects are new from Community Development.

Under a new construction program, with a total cost of $1.8 million, new single-family homes would be built on in-fill lots owned by the City of Wausau before being sold to income-qualified households. The department proposed building at least five such homes by 2026, the year by which ARPA funding must be used. The department sought $600,000 from ARPA with the remainder funded by the city.

The third project centers on making rent more affordable by building more units specifically for people in a low income bracket. The total budget is $1,065,000, with ARPA funding accounting for $500,000 and the rest by the city.

In her ARPA funding request for the rental unit project, Tammy Stratz, Wausau’s Community Development Manager, termed the project “an intersection of affordable housing and homelessness.”

The department proposed partnering with the North Central Community Action Program for the construction of a new structure, or rehabilitating an existing six-or-more unit apartment building for the purpose.

The proposals are subject to full council approval.