St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity receives $500,000 in federal funds

Sen. Tammy Baldwin helps secure money for affordable housing

By Sarah Nigbor
Posted 4/17/24

St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity has received $500,000 to support construction of affordable workforce housing in Pierce County, thanks to efforts by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D).

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St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity receives $500,000 in federal funds

Sen. Tammy Baldwin helps secure money for affordable housing


St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity has received $500,000 to support construction of affordable workforce housing in Pierce County, thanks to efforts by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D).

In this year’s annual funding package, Sen. Baldwin worked to include $500,000 in direct support for St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity to assist in building affordable homes to support workforce needs in a rapidly growing region of the state. Housing costs are rapidly rising in this region, she said.

“For our communities to grow and thrive, housing needs to be within reach for Wisconsinites,” said Sen. Baldwin. “I was proud to deliver direct support to expand affordable housing opportunities in Pierce County, lowering costs for Wisconsinites and ensuring more families can live comfortably in Western Wisconsin.”

“Policymakers, program designers, advocates and implementers must collectively mobilize resources to build sustainable, affordable housing and significantly impact our critical lack of inventory. This award starts that process,” said Kristie Smith, Executive Director of St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity. “We are thankful to Senator Baldwin’s office, and the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies for recognizing this immense need. This investment in affordable housing is also an investment in generational wealth building and opportunities for more of our neighbors who can change their lives through home ownership.”

Smith said SCVHH is one of two Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the state to receive the award.

“A family should never pay more than 30% of their income on a home. Yet, nearly 1 in 6 families pay half or more of their income on housing in this country. The cost of housing in neighborhoods across western Wisconsin leads our state. Data from the Wisconsin Realtors Association shows that Pierce County median homes sales price in 2011 was $135,000,” said Gina Moe-Knutson, St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity Board President and WESTconsin Realtor. “A decade later that number was $285,950 and last month it climbed to $325,000. This Congressionally Districted Spending funding is targeted to increasing housing inventory in Pierce County through the work that Habitat is doing to build sustainable, affordable housing in our communities.”

While housing costs have jumped significantly, cost of living/salary increases have not kept up. Smith said available housing inventory is significantly reduced based on the number of home sales.

“So, you’ve got rapidly increasing median home sales prices with fewer homes available on the market – causing a dramatic challenge for entry level/workforce housing opportunities,” Smith said. “The median home sales price in the first quarter of this year was $335,000.  Compared to first quarter in 2007, which was $175,000 and ten years ago (2014 -1st Quarter) at $124,500 the numbers reflect the changing marketplace. If you look at numbers just since the start of Covid, when housing demand tightened rapidly, the median home sales price in 2019 before the pandemic was $225,000 in the county. In 2020, that same number was $249,500 and in 2023 that number was $312,000.”

Smith said as more seniors are staying in larger homes where they raised their families, entry level (starter homes designed for young people entering the housing market) opportunities are decreasing. 

“The main reason seniors are staying in their homes is due to the cost to buy something else. The equity they’d built over the years can’t support current market rates,” Smith said.

Because Habitat’s mission is to help people with safe, affordable housing, it supports a second forgivable mortgage so that a homeowner buys the house they build at fair market value, but their first mortgage is 30% of their income. 

“In Pierce County, the Area Median Income (AMI) is $124,900,” Smith said. “Our income guidelines are set at 40-80% of AMI. Actual salary range then is impacted by how many people will occupy the home.”

Smith said workforce housing is the biggest issue for employers in the county.

“Without housing, a teacher can’t live in the community where his/her school is located. Nor can a healthcare worker, or the local shop owner. Affordable housing is a part of the solution. We are talking with municipality leaders throughout the county to think creatively about solving this crisis together,” Smith said. “We’re exploring new technologies to increase housing capacity while reducing the overall costs to homeownership. A very specific issue for rural communities comes in the form of usable/available land to build. When agricultural land is made available for affordable housing, infrastructure costs like roads, sewer and water significantly increase the cost to do this work.
Smith made clear that healthier outcomes are associated with safe, affordable homes. As an example, more than 21% of kids with asthma have mold in their homes, she said. Habitat for Humanity has done lots of research on the correlation of health and stable, affordable housing. 

She provided a few stats:

  • Providing access to stable and affordable housing improves health and reduces health care costs. Among households with low incomes, moving into more affordable and stable housing was associated with 18% fewer emergency department visits and 20% more primary care visits, which combined equate to a 12%, or approximately $580, decrease in Medicaid health care expenditures from the previous year.
  • Removing physical hazards and improving the safety of homes leads to better health for children and the elderly. Removing asthma triggers, such as pests and mold, from homes, coupled with community case management, resulted in decreased health care use and improved quality of life for children. Repairs and modifications to homes, coupled with home visits by a health care provider, resulted in a 30% improvement in the ability of older adults with low incomes to perform daily activities.
  • Living in homes in low-poverty neighborhoods or neighborhoods with access to healthy foods can improve physical health and healthy eating.

This grant will be used to increase housing inventory in the county. Smith said Habitat is exploring new technologies to reduce the overall cost to build. In River Falls, in May, they will build a modular home. 

“We also include sustainable building technologies, like solar panels, to help lower utility costs, and insulated cement forms and additional strapping to increase resiliency and protect homes from the damage associated with changing climate impacts like straight line wind and powerful rain and hail,” she said.

The availability of affordable housing in the same villages, towns and cities where people work curtails long commutes, keeps people from moving away and offers more time for residents to play active roles in their communities, Smith added.

To learn more from the Healthier Together Pierce & St. Croix Counties 2022 Housing Data, visit

St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity, affordable workforce housing, Pierce County, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, federal funds