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Housing secretary Ben Carson discusses affordable housing in Green Bay

United States{ }Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson in Green Bay on Sept. 28 to discuss affordable housing (courtesy: WLUK)
United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson in Green Bay on Sept. 28 to discuss affordable housing (courtesy: WLUK)
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GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- United States Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson says he believes the COVID-19 pandemic will leave lasting impacts on society, including the affordable housing situation.

Carson believes in housing first, but he believes in housing second and housing third as well.

"Housing second, you examine the reason that people are on the street, and housing third, you fix it," Carson explained. "If you don’t do housing second and housing third, all you do is continue to accumulate more dependent people, and that's not particularly helpful to the society."

Carson hosted a roundtable on Monday to discuss increasing the supply of affordable housing.

"As long as we're willing to sit down and actually examine what the barriers are and come to a conclusion that we want to deal with them, we can do it," Carson said.

After the roundtable, he toured a low-incoming apartment building that's under construction in the Rail Yards opportunity zone.

"There is subsidized housing here, there is mixed income housing, market-rate housing. And it’s all being planned strategically, and it’s going to be a beautiful development when it’s all said and done," Carson said.

John Sullivan is a vice president for the real estate company behind the Broadway Lofts.

"Green Bay was a city that was very open to affordable housing, which is why you see a project like this happen, it's one that you’re able to get a variety of income levels into a specific property, which was big for the city and it’s big for communities, if you’re able to have people of varying income levels [together]," Sullivan said.

Prices at the lofts will range from about $500 for a one bedroom to $1200 for a three bedroom, depending on the person’s income.

Around the corner at New Community Shelter, they are excited.

"I’m honored that he is acknowledging the problems that we have in Green Bay, the challenges of affordable housing, and having a conversation about it," Executive Director Terri Refsguard said. "I mean the apartment building going up next-door is very exciting to us, because it’s going to, for me, serve as a graduation for our people in the transitional living program into their own apartment."

Secretary Carson also emphasized the importance of dealing with addiction, educational and mental issues, to get people off of the streets.

The opportunity zone tax break program was created through a tax reform law passed by Republicans in 2017.

Green Bay has four areas designated for this kind of redevelopment.

One is on the east side, three more are along the Fox River on the city's west side.

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FOX 11 reached out to Mayor Eric Genrich to get his perspective on these opportunity zones, but we have not heard back.

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