League Testifies Against Zoning Mandate and Assessment Practices Bills

Last week, the Assembly Housing and Real Estate Committee held a public hearing on a package of eight bills focused on increasing the availability of more affordable housing and dramatically changing assessment practices. While the League agrees municipalities desperately need more workforce housing, several of the bills interfere with the ability of municipal officials to make land use policy decisions and undermine the ability of assessors to do their jobs. The League testified against the following two bills in the package:

AB 608, requiring municipalities to:
  1. provide at least one zoning district in which multifamily housing providing not fewer than 16 residential units per acre is a permitted use.
  2. Permit residential use at a density of at least 16 residential units per acre in any district designated for commercial use.
The bill also requires municipalities to establish a process for approving or denying an application for approval of a workforce housing project within 90 days of receiving the application and approve any application for approval of a workforce housing project that is consistent with the housing element of the political subdivision's comprehensive plan or zoning ordinance unless adverse impacts on public health or safety can be demonstrated.

The League urged the committee to vote against recommending passage of the bill because it interferes with local policy decisions about the density and character of a community. Regardless of whether one thinks the requirements in the bill have merit as good public policy, these types of land use policy decisions are best made by the village trustees and city council members elected by the residents of their community to make those decisions, not state legislators.

Read the League's memo opposing AB 608 here

AB 610 prohibits assessors from engaging in the following practices when assessing the value of real property for property tax purposes:
  1. Using mortgages or bank appraisals, or any portion thereof, to determine the assessed value.
  2. Using projected rents and other future or anticipated benefits to determine fair market value.
  3. Using list and asking prices or rents to determine fair market value.
  4. Using price trends to determine fair market value in order to increase the value of multiple properties by a general amount or percentage.
  5. Considering the value of a club house, swimming pool, or other amenity that is part of a multifamily property when assessing the multifamily property if the club house receives minimal or no rental income, regardless of whether the club house is located on a separate lot.
The League urged the committee to reject this radical change in assessment practices. Read the League's memo opposing AB 610 here.

What's Next? The housing committee is expected to vote on the package of 8 bills tomorrow at noon. The committee will likely pass amended versions of the bills. The full Assembly will take the package up and likely pass all eight bills sometime in the next two weeks. The League supports a couple of bills in the package: AB 609, which allows communities to create an affordable housing fund; and AB 607, allowing WHEDA to create a workforce housing rehabilitation loan program.

The fate of the package of bills is unclear in the Senate.

Session Spotlight

It will be a busy couple of weeks in the Legislature. The Senate is slated to be on the floor this Wednesday, October 20th and Monday, October 25th, while the Assembly will be in session on Tuesday, October 26th and Wednesday, October 27th. The housing bills discussed above will most likely be on the Assembly calendar although a listing of bills has not been developed to date. We will provide more information on the bills scheduled to be voted on in both houses in future Bulletins or the Capitol Buzz.

Special Guests at the League's Annual Conference

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities was created on December 14th, 1898 to help Wisconsin cities and villages share ideas and learn from one another, to train and provide information to the people elected and appointed to govern those cities and villages, and to advocate on their behalf with the Wisconsin Legislature, Governor and state agencies. Almost 125 years later and the League is still focused on these critical goals. This year at the League's annual conference we will hear from all of the key decision makers in State government including a luncheon address by Governor Evers and a Breakfast and Politics Friday morning session with Majority Leader Senator Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester). In addition we will also showcase legislative leaders who have transitioned from municipal offices to the state legislature including Representatives David Armstrong (R-Chippewa Falls), Sue Conley (D-Janesville), Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville), and David Steffen (R-Howard).

Thank you to all of our distinguished guests representing state government! Please take some time to stop and talk to legislators and the Governor during their visits. In addition, please invite your legislators to ribbon cuttings, grand openings, to tour new projects or developments, or even to your next board or council meeting. You share a constituency so communicate often with your state legislators on important events, issues, projects or policies in your community. The partnership you forge will be beneficial in long term advocacy efforts.