MARINETTE — Marinette County Economic Development Director Jennifer Short said Tuesday the county has been selected for a WHEDA pilot program.

A $10 million program from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) to address the state’s shortage of rural affordable workforce housing is moving forward with the selection of Marinette County as one of three pilot communities to be part of that effort.

According to its website, WHEDA has been working for more than 45 years to provide low-cost financing for housing and small business development in Wisconsin. Since 1972, WHEDA has financed more than 75,000 affordable rental units and have helped more than 133,000 families purchase homes.

“If Wisconsin is to thrive, access to safe, affordable housing is critical for rural residents, employers and communities,” said Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers in a prepared statement. “Together, the new WHEDA financing tools and launch of the rural affordable workforce housing pilot provide immediate resources while also creating a strategic path forward to tackle some of the underlying housing challenges our rural communities face.”

The pilot grant money has been awarded to three Wisconsin counties/areas. Marinette County, Door County and the Chequamegon Bay area, which will include the coastal communities of Odanah, Ashland, Washburn, Bayfield, Red Cliff and Cornucopia; the island community of LaPointe; and the inland communities of Cable and Iron River.

WHEDA CEO Joaquín Altoro said that the pilot selection process was rigorous and highly competitive with thirteen applications vying for the three pilots.

"The money won't be used to build housing, but will be used to fund both technical and finance tools for the project," Short said.

The program will begin work in Marinette County during the early Summer of 2021 and continue until the Winter of 2022.