A diverse group of members of the Waunakee Housing Task force met for the first time two weeks ago, each representing different ages, neighborhoods and occupations. They seemed to all come to the table with their own set of expectations about the outcome, and much of that first session was geared toward building trust and open, respectful communication as they begin to work together on a nine-month process.

One common theme emerged: affordable housing. And task force members found their way to it from a number of different angles. These were a few of the comments as the members introduced themselves.

-With low unemployment, employers may find it difficult to find workers who can afford to live in the community and become immersed in it.

-From a regional government standpoint, how do other communities who provide a range of housing options and density view Waunakee?

-How can the children of Waunakee residents find homes in the community once they are ready to begin their adult lives?

-Does the Waunakee area have enough affordable housing for residents now living in the community?

One hope of the task force is that its outcome gives direction to village officials on its policy limiting the number of multifamily homes to 25 percent, in particular, how those are counted. The comprehensive plan discusses a need for such housing, but the policy doesn’t reflect that.

The housing issue is complicated for many reasons.

We all have a vested interest in this community. Many like the “small town” feel and may fear it could be lost as the rental housing market grows. Some worry that an increase of affordable housing or any housing will burden school facilities, forcing a building referendum.

As the Housing Task Force members and Waunakee community as a whole explore this issue, we all have our own hopes but also fears as we envision change.

While we can hope this Housing Task Force can pinpoint policies to address, perhaps the first step will be building a sense of trust, based on common experiences, as this committee moves forward.

Task force members, and our community as whole, will only begin to solve this issue and others with common ground as their basis. Evidently, from the number of applicants for the nine-month process and the 21 chosen, residents are committed to the betterment of this community. Local government officials, along with staff, are also investing time and effort in the process.

Anyone interested in the housing issue can also attend the meetings to learn more. The next one is Oct. 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the Waunakee Village Center, 333 S. Madison St. If the time is not convenient, videos of the meetings are uploaded to YouTube.

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