In the early 1970’s, a group of Portage County citizens began discussing the lack of decent, safe, and sanitary rental housing for older adults and persons with disabilities in the rural areas of the county. At that time, there were not many rental units in the rural villages. Many of the available units were upper flats, so accessibility was a serious issue for this population group. Others were single-family units that were either too big or required yard maintenance that interfered with the strength of older persons and those with disabilities.
On August 15, 1972, the Portage County Board passed a resolution establishing the Housing Authority of the County of Portage (hereinafter referred to as “The Authority”). People immediately began referring to the organization as the Portage County Housing Authority (PCHA) or Housing Authority of Portage County (HAPC). All names are acceptable and they have been used interchangeably even in legal documents.
The August 15, 1972, County Board Resolution, as required by state statutes, appointed the original five members of the Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners. The governing body of the Housing Authority is a Board of Commissioners. The initial appointees were Arden Christy of Almond, William Clinton of Amherst, Harold Krubsack of Amherst Junction, Paul Kitowski of Junction City and Carl Kramer of Junction City. Mr. Kramer was named as the first Chair of the Board of Commissioners.
The next few years were spent conducting housing surveys to discover just what type of housing was needed and how large the market for such housing would be. Research was also done on the various housing programs that were available to determine which ones would best meet the identified needs. The Authority had assistance from other agencies during this period and was able to hire a staff person using some federally sponsored employment programs and start up funding from Portage County. The first employee of the Housing Authority of the County of Portage was Rita Derezinski. Her title was initially Housing Coordinator. She eventually became the first Executive Director of The Authority. The tasks set for her were formidable but the evaluation found in the early records indicates she performed above and beyond what was expected and got things off to a good start.
By 1975, the Board of Commissioners determined that a program available through the United States Department of Agriculture Farmer’s Home Administration (FMHA) would be the best funding mechanism for the type of housing needed. A 50-year low interest mortgage was applied for and received. With this mortgage, The Authority was able to build 30 apartments for low to moderate-income persons. In 1976, Project I, which consists of: Morgan Avenue Manor in Junction City, Rustic Manor in Rosholt, and Tomorrow River Villa in Amherst were opened. Each of these buildings contains ten apartments, a community room, and a laundry room.
Demand exceeded supply almost immediately. By late 1978, The Authority had added a second project (Project II) consisting of two-twelve unit buildings, Milladore Manor in Milladore, and Sunset Manor in Almond, and an 18 unit building, Hillside Manor in Amherst. At this time, federal rent subsidies became available through FMHA then later through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Rents could now be based on a percentage of income making the units affordable for even exceedingly low-income households.
The Authority added the rental assistance Certificate program in 1979. This HUD contracted funded program covered a portion of the rent to private owners on behalf of very-low and low-income renters. The housing assistance could be used on rental properties throughout Portage County except within the city limits of Stevens Point. Families with children as well as elderly households and persons with disabilities were able to use this program.
Initial funding through FMHA (then later though HUD) allowed The Authority to open Project III in 1982. This project is for families and consists of two duplexes in Rosholt (Eastview), two duplexes in Junction City (Northview) and two four-plexes in Amherst (Parkview). There is a wheelchair accessible unit located at Parkview in Amherst.
In 1988, additional rental assistance for privately owned units was obtained through a voucher contract with HUD. In 1991, the HAPC agreed to administer the Stevens Point Housing Authority’s Certificate Program and the city agreed to allow holders of county certificates and vouchers to use them on units within the city limits. Under the 1998, Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act, the Certificate and Voucher programs were merged and are now operated as the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
The Housing Authority of Portage County grew from an idea in 1971; to owning 30 units of housing in 1976, to owning 72 units in 1978, to owning 88 Authority owned units in 1982. As of 1-1-11, we have a total of 250 Vouchers. We had our own 156 Vouchers for private units under contract with HUD, as of 9-1-09, we acquired 80 units when Stevens Point Housing Authority opted out (Edgewater Manor) to not renew their funding contracts with HUD, and as of 1-1-11, we acquired the Stevens Point Housing Authority’s 14 Housing Choice Vouchers.
In 2016, the Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners came to the conclusion that our Elderly/Disabled property in Junction City, WI was no longer needed due to the numerous vacancies we had over the past several years (expenses to keep in operation outweighed the income). The Housing Authority of the County of Portage put the property on the open market. On January 20, 2017, the agency sold the property. The portfolio for agency owned units is currently at 78 units throughout the rural areas of Portage County.
The Housing Authority of Portage County is a non-profit government agency. Today, this agency continues to operate with the federal funds received through Rural Development (RD) (formerly known as FMHA) and HUD. The units owned by the Housing Authority for Project I are funded only by RD and units in Project II and III are funded only by HUD. The Housing Choice Vouchers contracted through this agency are funded only by HUD.