Northwoods Motels resurrected as accommodations

Employers and local investors in northern Wisconsin are converting motels into long-term housing in an effort to improve affordable housing options for local workers and residents. As Erin Gottsacker reports for WXPR, “This conversion from motel to apartment complex is likely to become more and more common, says Eric Schoessow, who has worked in real estate in the Northwoods for decades.”

According to Schoessow, “People are leaving the business because of what’s going on with Vrbo and vacation rentals. It’s taken away from mom-and-pop motels. So what do you do with that when you sell them? You have to use them for housing and that’s what I think a lot of people can and should do.

Local employers also recognize the need. “Rick Wilson, owner of Pukall Lumber Company in Minocqua, says he converted a motel into affordable housing because his employees couldn’t find anywhere to live.” The units were fully rented in two weeks. As Gottsacker writes, “Because many Northwoods townships are reluctant to build new apartment complexes, [Schoessow] says it’s one of the most obvious ways to provide more affordable housing.

In cities and states across the country, policymakers see hotels as a resource to boost affordable housing and provide emergency or long-term housing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, California’s Roomkey Project provided thousands of temporary housing units in hotels and motels to people experiencing homelessness.