Wisconsin Assembly to Vote on Workers’ Housing Bills

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The Wisconsin Assembly is due to vote Tuesday on a package of bills introduced by Republicans and the state’s building and real estate sectors as a way to create more affordable housing for workers, reduce regulations and reform obsolete practices.

A tight housing market, driven in part by a shortage of inventory and a drop in new construction, has caused house prices to rise rapidly in many areas, making it more difficult for people to purchase affordable housing. Republicans who drafted the bills have touted them as a way to make Wisconsin attractive to working people, especially those in their 20s and 30s.

Local governments have raised concerns about some of the measures, including one that would limit the information appraisers could use to determine a property’s value for tax purposes. The Madison City Assessor said the bill would shift taxes paid by commercial property owners to residential property owners, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Under the bills, affordable housing is defined as a place to live that costs no more than 30% of its gross annual income to a household in rent or mortgage. Housing is intended for people whose income does not exceed 120% of the territory’s median.

A bill to be approved would require local governments to approve housing projects for low-income residents. Another measure would create an exemption from sales tax on building and landscaping materials used to rehabilitate or build new “workforce housing”.

A third bill would require local governments of 50,000 or more people to use the lesser of $ 1 million or 10% of federal stimulus funds received on projects designed to improve and create affordable housing, including loans at low or no interest rates to rehabilitate old housing or build new units. The money could also be used to redevelop a commercial property of at least 10,000 square feet into new housing units.

According to another proposal, the Wisconsin Housing Authority would be able to offer interest-free or low-interest loans to people looking to renovate a residential property if their income does not exceed 120% of their county’s median income.

Once approved by the Republican-controlled assembly, the bills would then go to the Senate. If they are passed there, they would have to be signed by Democratic Governor Tony Evers before they become law. Evers has not indicated whether he supports either of these measures.

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