Low inventory, competition driving up home prices -- here are the bills Republicans say could help the problem

NOW: Low inventory, competition driving up home prices -- here are the bills Republicans say could help the problem

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- In an effort to address housing challenges in the state, Republicans unveiled a package of bills that would create more affordable housing for workers and reduce regulations.

Over the last 12 months, new listings are down nearly 33% and average prices of a home rose by 6.8%, according to a new report by the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

One of the bills would make construction costs more affordable as the industry has been dealing with a shortage of supplies impending their ability to build new homes. Rep. Bob Brooks said it would help build more "workforce housing" designed to make homes more affordable for the middle-class.


To provide developers more flexibility to construct homes in neighborhoods residents may oppose, another bill addresses "not in my back yard" or "NIMBY."

Sen. Quinn, a co-sponsor of the proposal and realtor in northwestern Wisconsin, said it would increase certainty and predictability in the development-approval process by giving local governments more power to resist neighbors who challenge new housing development.

"Unfortunately, some of the processes we have in place, if you get a group of neighbors who complain at the last planning commission meeting, they could put things on hold," Quinn said. "They could move the goal post for developers and inadvertently drive up the costs of construction."

Right now, builders need approval from local officials because they control the review process on where new homes can be built. Sometimes residents interfere with this process by putting pressure on local authorities to try and persuade them to turn down projects.

Residents object to new construction for a variety of reasons, but primarily because they don't want their neighborhood to change, Quinn said. Reasons range from traffic congestion, lower property values, increased crime, and overall impact on quality of life.

Kurt Paulson, a professor of Urban and Regional Planning at UW-Madison, said rejecting new projects can hamper the housing market and as a result, can increase the cost of housing.

"If a developer puts a lot of money into buying the property and expects to build 100 units…and then the process is delayed or whittled down to 85 units…the cumulative effect is to drive up the costs because if you deny units, the demand does not go away. Those households move somewhere else and put pressure on the housing market," Paulson said.

The bill would also give developers more tools to challenge the review process. Another proposal aims to make it harder for residents to sue after a project was approved.

Local governments could also update their zoning codes more easily, under another bill. Currently, a town, city, or village must approve zoning changes through a supermajority vote. The proposal would allow municipalities to do so with a simple majority.

Loan Programs

If builders fix up older buildings or construct new ones, they could apply for a zero-interest loan under another bill.

For a project to be eligible under the "Main Street Rehabilitation" bill:

  • It must be located on the second or third floor of an existing two-or-three-story building with a commercial use on the main floor
  • Constructed at least 40 years prior to the loan application and has not had any significant improvements over the last 30 years
  • The building is vacant or underutilized

Homeowners could also receive up to $50,000 in low-to-zero-interest loans if they make necessary repairs to older homes, for example, installing new plumbing, roofing, siding, and flooring.

The proposals received public hearings last week in the Assembly Committee on Housing and Real Estate and the Senate Committee on Housing, Rural Issues and Forestry.

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