Wisconsin – Small Town Creates Incentive to Put Down Roots

Menasha –

Located on the Northwest coast of Lake Winnebago, Menasha is one of many communities in the Midwest that has been overlooked as more and more people move to major cities throughout the region. Elected leaders are looking to change that narrative by reinvesting in the community.

Wide lawns, mature trees, and older homes dominate the housing stock near downtown. In nearby Appleton, homes are appraised at almost double what they are in Menasha – and that feels like an opportunity to elected officials. To that end, city leaders have authorized matching grants and increased access to loans in order to improve the exterior of local homes. With the average home nearly 50 years old, many residents have a difficult time keeping them in pristine condition.

“This program is designed to not only maintain home ownership by assisting homeowners who maybe couldn’t quite do that maintenance project…maybe it needs new windows, new roof, and it gives us a tool to allow them to reinvest,” Sam Schroder, director of community development told WBAY Ch2 News. As neighborhoods improve, the property value goes up, attracting new residents and businesses to a community. The hope is to create a positive investment cycle where individual home owners help to attract new residents, which encourages businesses to invest in the area as well.

The city expects the nearly $700,000 program to be available to residents for the next 3-5 years. Mayor Don Merkes has high hopes for the ripple effect that a relatively small investment can make, as he told WBAY Ch2 News: “It will increase stability within our city and I think that’s important to increase community pride, as well as to help increase test scores and opportunities for kids in our school system.”

Funding becomes available on January 1, 2020.