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De Pere rocks the block for revitalization

Jessica Diederich, CEO of Greater Green Bay Habitat, speaks during the unveiling of the Rock the Block program.
Jessica Diederich, CEO of Greater Green Bay Habitat, speaks during the unveiling of the Rock the Block program. John Craemer photo



DE PERE – On March 20, the Greater Green Bay Habitat for Humanity unveiled a new program in the De Pere City Hall Council Chambers that is designed to enhance the well-being of community members.

“[We] feel that it’s important to address current homeowner struggles and offer support. Many segments of homeowners in our community face challenges and are forced to make trade-offs — similar challenges as those that our organization currently addresses,” said Jessica Diederich, CEO of Greater Green Bay Habitat.

“After having countless conversations about neighborhood revitalization needs over the years, we have decided to expand our program.

“’Rock the Block’ is a neighborhood revitalization program that focuses on making improvements and repairs to the exterior of up to 30 homes in a designated area, all in a matter of just a few days.”

Diederich said that in the state of Wisconsin, one in nine households is using 50% of their income for housing.

“In Brown County, one in three households are living below the ALICE threshold and are struggling to meet daily basic needs. 30 percent of De Pere households are income constrained and limited on resources,” she added.

Also, Brown County has a 62.4% homeownership rate and of that, 20% of homeowners are spending greater than the recommended 30 percent threshold of their monthly income on housing.”

Working with the city of De Pere, organizers identified an area of the city for its focus.

“This first Rock the Block project area lies immediately east of city hall and the new Mulva Cultural Center extending Ontario Street to Washington Street, George Street to the north, and Merrill Street to the south. Within this area, 170 owner-occupied homes stand as the backbone of our community. As any growing and vibrant city experiences our housing stock undergoes cycles and attention is required,” Mayor James Boyd explained.

“The city of De Pere, like other cities in the state, is striving to meet the needs of its residents with affordable housing and workforce housing options. With the median construction year of 1984 and 21% of housing units predating 1950, the city has developed programs and partnerships focused on home improvement services and this is one of four. These initiatives encompass safety repairs, beautification, weatherization, and home preservation projects.

“Supporting these endeavors, the city of De Pere has allocated a portion of its affordable housing funds and funds from the American Rescue Plan, ARPA, to fund the Rock the Block program. In total the city is committing $400,000 in ARPA funding with $200,000 designated for an east-side project in 2024, the one we’re talking about, and an additional $200,000 for a west-side project in 2026. Of that $400,000, $100,000 is from ARPA and $300,000 from a TID affordable housing extension.”

The inaugural volunteer-driven event will be a three-day event that will take place Sept. 12-14.

“We will bring together hundreds of volunteers from our community to make necessary repairs and improvements to the exterior of the homes in this specific neighborhood. It will serve up to 30 homes dependent on a maximum of a $7,500 budget per home based on the repairs that are needed,” Diederich said.

“This could be anything from basic landscaping to an entire roof replacement.

“These are individuals and families who are currently homeowners that are integrated into the De Pere community. They are our workforce and they are an economic driver in the Greater Green Bay Area.

“Across the nation, Habitat for Humanity neighborhood revitalization programs have proven to increase collective action and demonstrate increased capacity to work together to create change. Many other habitats in the state have successfully launched Rock the Block, including the Fox Cities, Lakeshore, Chippewa Valley and Oshkosh.

“So, we are very confident that this program will also be very successful in our area.”

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