Assembly Passes Housing Bill

The Wisconsin State Assembly passed a bill co-authored by Rep. Joel Kitchens that would encourage housing construction in rural areas. 

Assembly Bill 544 (AB 544) would create a $10 million pilot program for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to award grants, loans or loan guarantees to rural communities to encourage the construction of single- and multi-family workforce housing. Eligible projects must be located in a county where more than 25 percent of its residents live in rural areas.

“It was pretty shocking to me when I learned that almost 80 percent of state and federal low-income housing tax credits go to the three most populous counties in Wisconsin,” Kitchens said. “Our state is so much more than just three counties, so we need to be doing all we can to ensure that the rest of us – especially those in our more rural regions – are not being left behind.”

Jim Schuessler, executive director of the Door County Economic Development Corporation, believes developers have been reluctant to build in rural areas because of sharp increases in home construction costs, limited financing on new housing and a diminished interest in small-scale projects.

“AB 544 takes a problem-solving approach to addressing the need for workforce apartments and even single-family homes in rural counties such as Door County,” Schuessler said. “Door County has several municipalities that have shovel-ready sites for development, and AB 544 creates an opportunity to focus on the gaps that stand in the way of providing workforce housing in our rural communities.”

The bill was one of several initiatives highlighted by Kitchens at a meeting with the Door County Legislative Committee on Jan. 21.

Marriage Licenses

Door County Clerk Jill Lau alerted the committee that a new bill that allows people more flexibility in filing for marriage licenses could cut revenue in her office. The bill would allow couples to obtain marriage licenses in any county in Wisconsin, rather than the county in which they get married. 

In 2019, the county clerk issued 218 marriage licenses, of which 85 were for out-of-state couples, and another 12 included at least one party who was an out-of-state resident. Those couples would now be able to go to the nearest county to obtain the license. At $75 per license, that could cost the county $6,375 in revenue if all out-of-state couples filed elsewhere. 

“I’m just telling you so that when I have to ask for more money in my budget next year, you know why,” Lau said. 

Bill Would Streamline Condominium Disputes

Kitchens also discussed a bill that passed the Senate that would create a dispute-resolution process between condominium-association leaders and unit owners. Kitchens and Sen. Robert Cowles said constituents have reported difficulty getting answers from condo-association boards and have resorted to legal measures to get basic answers. 

“By creating a dispute-resolution process between condo associations and unit owners, we are providing both parties with the opportunity to avoid these costly and burdensome headaches,” Kitchens said in a statement. 

The bill now goes to the Assembly. 

Coming Next Week

As support for redistricting reform grows among citizens, the Wisconsin Legislature has been reluctant to act. We’ll look at why redistricting matters to citizens and what the future holds for the effort to change how Wisconsin draws its electoral maps.

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