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Assembly advances housing bill

Lawmakers in the state Assembly passed legislation Tuesday that would set aside $10 million to encourage the construction of affordable housing in rural counties.

Assembly Bill 544 would direct the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to hand out that money in the form of grants, loans, loan guarantees or other financial assistance. The bill defines rural counties as those where more than 25 percent of the residents live in places that count as rural according to standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The proposal comes on the heels of a pair of reports that, when presented to the Legislature this fall, called attention to the state’s slump in the construction of workforce housing. One report found that employment on subdivision projects has dropped by 61% since 2005, even as the state’s employment figures have generally recovered since the 2008 recession.

To become law, AB 544 still has to be adopted by the state Senate and signed by Gov. Tony Evers.

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