Mayor Barrett and State Legislator Disagree Over Impact of 'Zombie Home' Bill

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is asking state legislators to kill a bill he says will create more problems vacant homes in the city.

Monday afternoon, the mayor held a press conference on Milwaukee’s northwest side.

Barrett pointed to a house as an example of current state law helping to prevent the vacant home from becoming a problem in that neighborhood. He said the proposed law change would make it easier for vacant homes to be left abandoned for up to a year.

The bill’s author, State Representative Terry Katsma [R-Oostburg], says the point of the bill is to speed up the foreclosure process, and to provide clarity.

He also says Mayor Barrett is misrepresenting what the bill does by saying homes would stay vacant longer.

Katsma said, “I disagree with that I do think that this would clarify the issue and it's certainly not my goal to increase the number of zombie properties. I understand that problem and I understand that threat that causes to neighborhoods in cities."

Michael Semmann, the vice president of the Wisconsin Bankers Association, also said Barrett is misrepresenting the bill’s impact. Semmann’s group is registered in favor of the bill.

Monday, Barrett responded to their comments. He said, "I would love to have them here because again, we told them what the problem is. We told them we do not want to have these properties sit vacant. And I have not heard one word from them that would convince me that this is going to help the problem. They're saying it's going to help."

The bill has passed the State Assembly, and is set for a vote in the Senate.

Barrett says Milwaukee has more than 300 vacant homes, so this bill would impact Milwaukee more than any other area in the state.

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