Gov. Tony Evers signed a five bills into law Thursday to increase the state’s housing stock. (Representative Robert Brooks | Facebook)
Gov. Tony Evers signed five bills into law Thursday that are aimed at increasing Wisconsin’s housing stock as a lack of supply continues to make housing scarce across the state.
The bipartisan bills create or expand a number of loan programs through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). The product of negotiations between the Evers administration, developers, home builders, municipalities and Republican legislators, the bills’ enactment continues a string of successful legislative action in the state’s divided government.
In much of Wisconsin, the construction of new housing never recovered from the 2008 housing crash, creating a gap between what municipalities needed to build in order to keep up with growth and what was actually done. The state’s 20 largest counties have been underproducing housing units, apartment units and single family homes, as demand has continued to go up. Data from UW-Madison professor Kurt Paulsen showed that the state’s largest counties have built 26,000 fewer units than they needed to over the last 15 years and that most of the state’s largest job centers have more jobs than housing units available.
Additionally, a growing portion of Wisconsin residents are housing “burdened,” meaning they spend more than 50% of their income on rent or mortgage payments.
At a hearing in May, WHEDA CEO Elmer Moore Jr. said the state needed to build 120,000 additional rental units to make up the current housing gap.
“Access to safe, reliable, and affordable housing statewide is an absolutely critical part of addressing Wisconsin’s long-standing workforce challenges,” Evers said in a statement. “But even beyond that, making sure we have safe, reliable, affordable housing statewide is about more than ensuring folks have a roof over their head at night. Housing ensures our kids have the stability to bring their best, full selves to the classroom, that hard-working folks can live in the communities they work in, which is important for the long-term strength of our economy, that individuals working to overcome substance use disorder have a safe place to focus on recovery, and that folks reentering our communities can do so safely.”
Four of the bills signed by Evers provide for lending programs administered by WHEDA to rehabilitate aging homes; convert commercial property such as vacant office buildings to residential use; renovate or update existing housing stock above Main Street retail locations across Wisconsin and cover the cost to developers for installing, updating or replacing the public infrastructure needed to build new housing.
Another bill limits ways in which a municipality can deny a proposed housing project that complies with local zoning rules and limits how those decisions can be challenged in court.
Two other housing-related bills originally included in the legislative package, which raise the cap for the state’s low-income housing tax credits and expanded the use of tax incremental districts if financed by developers, remain in a Senate committee after being passed by the Assembly.
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