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Wisconsin passes legislation to boost affordable housing development

By: Ethan Duran//June 22, 2023//

Wisconsin passes legislation to boost affordable housing development

By: Ethan Duran//June 22, 2023//

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Gov. Tony Evers speaks at a campaign stop in 2022 in Milwaukee. Evers on Thursday signed a package of bills for affordable housing, including bills for lead paint remediation and to smooth the process for developers looking to build workforce housing in local communities. Real estate advocates and advocates for those with developmental disabilities applauded different parts of the bipartisan five-bill package. (AP File Photo/Morry Gash)

Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday signed a package of five bills for affordable housing, including Assembly Bill 266, which limits local governments’ ability to impose a supermajority on zoning amendment votes. Signing the bills into law helps expand access to safe and affordable housing for working families and supports the state’s workforce and economic momentum, governor’s officials added.

“Access to safe, reliable, and affordable housing statewide is an absolutely critical part of addressing Wisconsin’s long-standing workforce challenges. 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 hardworking 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,” Gov. Evers said in a statement.

Evers signed Assembly Bills 264, 265, 266, 267 and 268. They were introduced by a bipartisan committee within the Legislature and included bills for lead paint remediation and to limit the power of “NIMBY” or people who slowed or halted affordable housing development progress, according to the bill’s authors.

AB 264 creates a residential housing infrastructure revolving loan program that lets housing developers apply to the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) for a loan to cover the costs of installing, replacing, upgrading or improving public infrastructure related to workforce housing or senior housing, governor’s officials said.

AB 268 creates another revolving loan program under WHEDA for commercial-to-residential conversion, officials added. A developer can apply to WHEDA for a loan to cover the costs of converting a vacant commercial building to workforce or senior housing.

Under the new law, the housing associated with a conversion loan must be new residential housing for rent or for sale and must have 16 or more living units, officials noted.

As previously reported by The Daily Reporter, AB 265 and 267 will extend the eligibility of homes renovated with WHEDA loans and to create a revolving loan fund program to rehab housing on the state’s main streets.

Advocates for residents with developmental disabilities applauded the bills and said they were “important steps” toward safer housing. The bills let property owners apply for loans that can be used to remove lead paint, remediate asbestos and replace internal plumbing, according to the bill text.

Children in all of Wisconsin’s 72 counties are affected by lead, Beth Swedeen, executive director of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, said in a statement.

As previously reported, AB 266 introduced by Wisconsin State Rep. Scott Krug (R – Nekoosa), will create more “certainty and predictability” in the approval process for developments before local governments and will limit the ability of “NIMBYs” or “Not in My Backyard” to delay or terminate the approval process for housing development, according to a joint statement from a group of state Representatives and Senators, including Rep. Robert Brooks (R – Saukville) and Sen. Romaine Quinn (R – Cameron).

The bill will overhaul local governments’ power to impose a supermajority for zoning amendments and require them to approve permits aligned with local standards.

The real estate association NAIOP Wisconsin pledged its support for the bill package since its inception. NAIOP President and CEO Jim Villa said workforce housing is critical to Wisconsin’s economy.

“We know that quality workforce housing is critical to sustain and grow Wisconsin’s economy. NAIOP Wisconsin applauds Representative Robert Brooks, Senator Romaine Quinn, their legislative colleagues, and our industry partners for working collaboratively to find creative solutions to address this need. We look forward to working with the Legislature and Governor to pass these commonsense proposals to help move Wisconsin forward,” Villa added.


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