WHEDA Goes Mobile
Before the prevalence of smartphones, information was less available, and the scope of WHEDA programming was limited to those who explicitly heard about it through their local lender. Quite often, that type of outreach simply wasn’t enough. In rural areas, residents may have to travel a significant distance to meet with a lender and they may not even learn about WHEDA and its affordable mortgage options. In rural communities with smaller exposure or lack of banking options, these limitations posed real challenges for WHEDA outreach.
In an effort to combat this outreach challenge, WHEDA began the construction of a highly technological mobile vehicle that could utilize the power of satellite internet to spread awareness to these communities. The WHEDA mobile office was introduced in 2002 and travelled across the countryside with its driver doubling as a loan representative. At the time, these technologies were revolutionary. By parking at community hubs of commerce, such as the local Walmart or supermarket, this office attracted attention, drawing in those who might otherwise be hesitant to go to banks or other lending institutions.
In its first year, the mobile office saw real results as loan activity in the rural areas it served increased by 17%. Similar to mobile offices employed by many insurance companies today, WHEDA's mobile office also visited locations that had been impacted by natural disasters, such as the Ladysmith community which was struck by an F3 tornado earlier that year.
Due to cost limitations and new technologies, use of WHEDA's mobile office eventually declined, and was limited to major events where it would receive greater exposure. Within two years of its introduction, the mobile office was retired.
Though WHEDA’s mobile office is no longer in use today, it’s existence as a landmark of WHEDA progress should not be discounted. Representing an initiative toward accessibility, the project exemplified WHEDA’s mission to provide affordable housing to all Wisconsin residents, even if it meant WHEDA had to bring the programs to the people.
Today, access to information on WHEDA loans has never been easier. In 2017, it was reported that 80% of all traffic to the WHEDA site was initiated from mobile devices. While it’s not as cool as a satellite dish perched atop a heavy-duty van, WHEDA’s accessibility to the public has never been better. The mobile office fueled WHEDA’s transition into the future and provided a legacy that will not likely be forgotten.