Brown County house fire highlights lack of affordable housing in NE Wisconsin

The struggle to find permanent housing highlights the lack of affordable housing in Brown County.
Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 10:16 PM CST
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GREENLEAF, Wis. (WBAY) - Valerie Rinehart is still visiting the site of her former home in Greenleaf.

“I mean, I’m blessed that everyone is out safe. Thanks to the angels that came and got everyone out,” Rinehart said while staring at burned rubble.

On January 22nd around 5:30 p.m. a fire that she says began on the roof destroyed her rental home. She wasn’t there at the time, but her children were.

While they kids were inside, her kids didn’t see any smoke or flames. A person driving by kicked down the front door to the house after no one answered, an act that Rinehart says she’s grateful he did.

“Trucks were here for hours trying to get the fire out,” she said. “At no point was it safe for them to enter the house. They thought they were going to go in at one point, but then that’s when the second floor fell into the first floor.”

Rinehart is having a hard time finding an affordable new place in southern Brown County, in the Wrightstown and Greenleaf area. She wants to remain there so her son can stay in his school. For the time being, her family isn’t living in a permanent home.

“Everyone knows, the market is not a great market right now, so trying to find a place in our budget because I am a single mom and I take care of my disabled mom and sister” is difficult, she said.

Cheryl Detrick is the president and chief executive officer of NEWCAP, which helps low-income individuals find stable living situations. She says wages unfortunately haven’t kept up with rising rents.

“Most people, at average wages can’t afford housing within their community working a full time job. That’s a problem,” Detrick said. “When you get into highly desirable communities, like frankly Wrightstown is, there are even fewer rental units available. It’s almost all owner occupied.”

Rinehart was paying $12 a month for insurance through the property management, but it was for the house and didn’t cover her belongings.

“I did know what it was, I just couldn’t afford to get a second policy to cover my stuff. And you never think it’s going to be your house that burns down, so I wasn’t that concerned,” Rinehart said.

Here’s a link to a GoFundMe page if you’re interested in helping the Rinehart family:

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