Northwoods Motels Revived as Housing

As more vacationers opt for private lake homes or rental cabins, developers in northern Wisconsin are converting motels into badly needed worker housing.

2 minute read

June 5, 2022, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Yellow and black motel sign

KevinKlimaPhoto / Motel

Local employers and investors in northern Wisconsin are converting motels to 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 will likely become more and more common, says Eric Schoessow, who has worked in real estate in the Northwoods for decades.” 

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

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

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

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