Walworth County Public Health began its Community Health Assessment and Improvement Planning Process in 2020. Focused on “Connecting Communities,” the assessment emphasized our collective ability to positively impact the health and well-being of our community on a variety of levels. The data collected through this process led to the creation of the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), a road map that identifies strategic priorities centered around the foundational elements of equity, social connectedness, built environment, and economic stability.
Housing—specifically, a lack of attainable housing—was among the priorities identified by residents and incorporated into the plan. Public Health formed a housing steering committee consisting of representatives from municipal, business, and social service organizations in 2022.
At the center of the committee’s conversations was a basic desire and expectation: If you work in Walworth County, you should be able to afford to live here. Over several months, the committee worked to identify barriers to attainable housing and potential courses of action.
Workforce Housing Initiative
The connection between economic health and community health was echoed by Derek D’Auria, a CHIP steering committee member and the Executive Director of the Walworth County Economic Development Agency (WCEDA). These conversations ultimately resulted in the creation of the County Workforce Housing Initiative, which was submitted by WCEDA and approved by the Walworth County Board of Supervisors.
The initiative seeks to further the development and growth of housing within the county through the hiring of a project manager to work on workforce housing initiatives, partner with municipalities to assess housing ordinances and attract workforce housing developments, assist in the completion of grants or housing studies, and host a county-wide housing summit to convene local business and municipal leaders interested in pursuing workforce-housing opportunities.
The Breaking Ground: Walworth County Housing Summit was held at the Abbey Resort in September 2023. Approximately 150 leaders in local and state government, business, community development, and education attended the event. Visit WCEDA’s website to learn more about the Housing Summit and WCEDA’s Housing Initiative.
The multi-agency, cross-departmental conversations happening around housing prompted the inclusion of housing as a discussion during the County Board’s 2023 Strategic Planning process. The Board of Supervisors discussed workforce and affordable housing during a dedicated Committee of the Whole Strategic Planning meeting on July 11, 2023. View the meeting video. View the Strategic Planning Housing Presentation.
County Board discussions around housing are ongoing. Stay informed: Sign up to receive County Board and Executive meeting agendas and documents at https://www.co.walworth.wi.us/list.aspx.