LA CROSSE Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – A lack of affordable housing remains a concern in the Coulee Region. Homes are aging quickly, while costs continue to increase. The La Crosse area Habitat for Humanity is getting a significant financial boost from a nationally known philanthropist.
Author Mackenzie Scott is donating more than 400 million dollars to Habitat for Humanity International, and 84 different Habitat affiliates around the country. Two million dollars will be given to the La Crosse chapter of the organization, an amount that executive director Kahya Fox calls ‘transformational’.
“We will be working together to develop a thoughtful and strategic plan in order to expand existing programs, create new and innovative programming, increase awareness and support to sustain these programs over time, and grow understanding about the need for affordable housing in our community,” said Fox.
Discussions on how to use the money are in their early stages, but Habitat board president Jim Szymalak has a few ideas.
“The housing stock is not in the best shape it could be, so there are opportunities there for improvement. We have seniors looking to stay within their houses, so we have initiatives that provide critical home repair for those on fixed incomes. Replacing water heaters, issues like that, but also maybe installing wheelchair ramps, widening doorways, to allow them to stay in their house,” said Szymalak.
Szymalak says he’s excited about the opportunity to accelerate Habitat’s timeline of making housing more sustainable across the Coulee Region.
“We have this safety blanket, so we can start launching these new initiatives that we were going to launch anyway, irrespective of this gift. Now, we have the security to be able to know it won’t jeopardize the organization,” said Szymalak.
The money may also give Habitat the opportunity for more home-building projects in the future. Habitat for Humanity says nearly one-in-five renters in the La Crosse area pay more than fifty percent of their gross income on housing.