Eau Claire City Hall

Eau Claire is planning to take on a project to address the area’s affordable housing crunch sooner than initially expected.

City Manager Dale Peters is revising his five-year plan for projects that Eau Claire is expected to undertake, but moving $200,000 originally intended for an affordable housing effort in 2022 so it could be spent next year.

The City Council has a public hearing scheduled on Monday night for Peters’ 2020-2024 Capital Improvement Plan and will then vote on during Tuesday afternoon’s meeting.

Council members had pressured Peters in recent weeks during work sessions on the plan to accelerate funding for what has been a hot issue for more than a year.

“There was interest from council to see dollars moved up for affordable housing,” Councilman Andrew Werthmann said.

Though details are still being worked out for the upcoming project, Werthmann called Peters’ change to the plans “a good start” to address an urgent problem.

A memo from Peters states that city staff have been discussing acquiring vacant land for several months to help foster the creation of affordable housing.

However, it was only in recent days that the ideas came together to the point where he was ready to propose using the $200,000 as early as next year.

While still conceptual, Peters wrote that the project would likely start with the city buying vacant land and dividing it into lots for single-family homes. Streets, utilities, lighting, sidewalks and other infrastructure would be installed as well.

The city would offer these lots for sale to developers and others interested in building there under specific standards for house size, style and sale prices.

Peters’ move to accelerate affordable housing funding isn’t the only change proposed to the five-year projects plan the City Council has been discussing this summer.

Amendments that would provide $20,000 to a skateboard plaza in Boyd Park and use $10,000 annually for bicycle parking will both be considered at Tuesday’s meeting.

Other Business

Also during this week’s meetings:

• City plans to create a new tax increment financing district to aid in the development of the Cannery District will be subject to a Monday night public hearing and a council vote on Tuesday.

• The city is preparing to sign an agreement with W Capital Group, a Madison-based developer planning to build the Cannery Trail Residences apartment buildings in the Cannery District with some units specifically for low-income residents. The agreement includes up to $800,000 in city incentives the developer could receive for reaching certain milestones, including compliance with affordable housing requirements.

• The council will meet in closed session before and after the 7 p.m. Monday open meeting to discuss several matters. Those topics are the city manager’s performance evaluation, the future of a steam locomotive that Eau Claire owns and contract negotiations with unions representing police officers, firefighters and bus drivers.

• Three hybrid buses will be purchased from Gillig of Livermore, Calif., under a $2 million contract the council is slated to vote on Tuesday.

• Eau Claire-based Market & Johnson is poised to get a $564,700 contract to serve as construction manager for the city’s new Transit Transfer Center project.

• A $382,432 contract to buy road salt from Morton Salt of Chicago for next winter will be voted on by the council.

Contact: 715-833-9204, andrew.dowd@ecpc.com, @ADowd_LT on Twitter