Removing Barriers to Create More Housing

Pending Legislation

AB 39 / SB 40

Adjustments to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program.

AB 264 / SB 293

Infrastructure Revolving Loans for streets, sewer, water, etc. to service new residential development.

AB 265 / SB 294

Main Street Rehabilitation Revolving Loans to repair and rehabilitate residential rental housing above existing building with a commercial use on the main floor.

AB 266 / SB 296

Judicial Review of local government decisions to increase certainty and predictability in the development-approval process.

AB 267 / SB 297

Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development (WHEDA) program to fund low-interest loans for the rehabilitation of certain residential properties created under 2021 Wis. Act 221.

AB 268 / SB 295

Vacant Commercial-to-Housing conversion revolving loans to fund the redevelopment of vacant commercial buildings into new residential work force housing.

Wisconsin has a housing crisis.

With statewide housing inventory levels at historic lows and median home prices continuing to rise, Wisconsin has a major workforce housing shortage problem. 

Wisconsin employers are having difficulty recruiting workers to fill thousands of job openings due to a historic shortage of affordable housing options for workers. 

Two of the biggest barriers to new home building in communities is the opposition from existing residents or NIMBYs (Not in My Backyard) and the lack of financing tools for new development. 


Existing residents or NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard) regularly oppose the development of new housing, which limits the supply and increases the cost of housing. 

Communities often spend years and thousands of dollars on outside consultants, public hearings and staff time to help develop a comprehensive plan to guide future development in the community, only to ignore the plan due to public opposition when a developer actually tries to build the type of housing specified in the plan. 

While developers are most commonly targets of NIMBYs, the victims of NIBMYism often are those who would have occupied these new homes. Generally, they include fellow members of the community who are on fixed incomes, young families, teachers, police officers, and workers in the service industry. 

By opposing the development of new housing, NIMBYs limit the supply of housing necessary to meet demand, causing prices to increase further. In addition, when people can’t afford to live in the communities in which they work, they are forced to move farther away to find homes they can afford, putting more cars on the road for longer commutes and creating more wear and tear on Wisconsin roads. 

The Wisconsin legislature is currently working to address the workforce housing shortage by creating certainty and predictability by limiting the ability of NIMBY’s to delay or stop the approval of proposed housing developments. 

Single-family Home Permits 2004

Single-family home permits in 2021

Financing Tools 

From the more than 30,000 single-family home permits authorized in 2004 to fewer than 11,750 permits authorized in 2017, Wisconsin must address today’s growing workforce housing needs. 

To create more workforce housing, new financing tools are necessary to fund infrastructure investments for development, the rehabilitation and repair of older housing stock, and converting units above main street and vacant commercial buildings into available workforce housing.

New infrastructure financing tools will help increase the supply of workforce housing to help Wisconsin employers compete in the global marketplace, which will benefit our state and local economies. Allowing for the repair and rehabilitation of unlikely or rundown properties into residential housing units, creates communities where the workforce can be within walking distance or near transportation allow the workforce to live where they work. 

The Wisconsin legislature is currently considering legislation aimed at increasing the supply of workforce housing: 

  • Residential development infrastructure loan program – create a loan program at the state level to fund infrastructure (street, water, sewer, sidewalks, etc.) for residential developments. 
  • Main street residential housing rehab loan program – provides a loan program for the repair and rehabilitation of residential rental housing above an existing building with a commercial use on the main floor.  
  • Vacant commercial to housing conversion loan program – provides a new financing tool with a loan program to assist in the development of vacant commercial buildings for new residential workforce housing.

The WRA supports legislation saying no to NIMBYs and yes to financing tools to increase workforce housing.


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

State lawmakers unveil package of bills aimed at addressing Wisconsin's housing shortage

Amid debate of Wisconsin housing bills, anti-NIMBY proposal elicits strong reactions

Bipartisan housing bills aim to close Wisconsin’s massive affordable housing gap

Wisconsin's housing shortage isn't just a quality-of-life issue. It's a workforce issue.

Capitol Insights

Ep. 24

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Capitol Insights

Ep. 23

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Removing Local Barriers to Workforce Housing

Removing Local Barriers to Workforce Housing

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Year-Over-Year Dip in Home Sales (February)

Additional Resources

Industry expert predicts declining statewide home sales during peak months due to low listings

Read more on the BizTimes

Homeownership dreams foiled by a ‘perfect storm’

Read more on the PBS Wisconsin

Fast Facts: Wisconsin’s rising housing costs

Read more on the PBS Wisconsin

Moore, Steil discuss housing inequities in Milwaukee

Read more on the PBS Wisconsin

Newsmakers: Make More Workforce Housing

Assembly Committee on Housing and Real Estate

Wisconsin’s roller coaster housing market for millennials

Walworth County Owner-Occupied Housing Report

The results for the entire Walworth County housing market show signs of a shortage in the medium to long term. Policy changes that address this disequilibrium may improve the health of the owner-occupied housing market and prevent the current housing shortage from compounding.

Of particular note, our results suggest a significant shortage of affordable owner-occupied housing — i.e., the price bracket of homes that includes starter homes.

Results from Western Racine and Kenosha counties also suggest an even more pronounced overall shortage of housing than Walworth County as well as a similarly pronounced shortage particular to affordable owner occupied housing.

Policy that addresses this sector of the housing market — for example, policies that reduce fixed development costs, which most heavily impact the development of the most affordable homes— may improve the overall health of the entire housing market and ensure that there is sufficient supply of
affordable owner-occupied homes.

Local communities must remember that development fees such as building permits, stormwater management or plat review fees; impact fees; and the approval process itself all contribute to the cost and affordability of housing. Moreover, these costs are generally fixed regardless of the price or size of housing and, thus, have a regressive effect on the affordability of housing.

One change that could encourage housing development is to establish a consistent schedule of low fees and non-onerous regulations across communities, or setting reduced fees for starter-priced homes. The fees, permits and processes a prospective developer must adhere to vary considerably between communities. These hurdles create inefficient “shoe leather” costs, or the additional costs from time and effort that developers are required to incur while parsing through differing standards.

The additional costs are inevitably passed on to the homebuyer or may even discourage developers from constructing affordable owner-occupied housing altogether and instead choose to construct larger homes with higher profit margins where these costs can be more easily absorbed. Ultimately, such costs are either passed on to the homebuyer, prevent the expansion of the affordable owner-occupied housing stock, or both.

Wisconsin’s Housing Challenge: Inadequate supply, declining affordability

Prof. Kurt Paulsen, October 2021
Wisconsin Real Estate and Economic Outlook Conference
Wisconsin’s Housing Challenge: Inadequate supply, declining affordability
PDF (1.1 MB)


State Republicans Propose New Zoning and Development Bills

Gov. Evers called it a “good step” toward addressing affordable housing shortage.

City, county groups push back against GOP bills geared toward affordable housing, property assessments

A handful of GOP-authored bills aimed at increasing affordable housing options across the state has received pushback from Wisconsin city, town and county organizations for seeking to impose mandates on local entities, including one bill that would give state authority over where homeless people can set up campsites.

Restrictive zoning policies shut door to affordable housing in some suburbs

Amy Kaiser is a recently divorced mother of two children. She’s 38-years-old, has a college degree and works at a bank in Elm Grove, earning what she describes as a lower-middle-class income.

Kaiser was living in Brookfield, but recently had to move to an eight-unit apartment complex in West Allis after a divorce.

Wisconsin Assembly passes workforce housing bills

ADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a package of bills touted by Republicans and the state’s building and real estate industries as a way to create more affordable housing for workers, reduce regulations and reform outdated practices.
Wisconsin Assembly passes workforce housing bills