A substantial part of this portion of the toolkit was developed by the West Central Regional Planning Commission staff, in partnership with the Polk County Economic Development Corporation. We extend our thanks appreciation to them for this contribution.

This Housing Toolkit is a brief list of resources, key partners, programs, and policy alternatives that may be considered by the residents, communities, developers, and other partner organizations of the Momentum West Region to address housing needs and meet local housing-related goals. It does not include all available alternatives and resources; this document should not stifle local creativity and partnership opportunities in addressing local housing needs. Further, many alternatives can be customized for specific local circumstances. If you have questions, more information regarding most tools, resources, and partner contacts can be found through a quick Internet search. Please feel free to also contact West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (715-836-2918) for additional information.

This section describes tools that local governments can use to plan for and encourage the housing choices that the community needs and desires. As will be discussed later in this Toolbox, communities can also encourage and promote homeowner and rental financial assistance programs, supportive housing programs, and the creation of partnerships.


Limitations on Local Government Action

Before considering different tools, it is important to remember that Federal and State rules may limit what local municipalities can do in terms of land use and housing policy and regulations. A few key housing-related rules to keep in mind:

Fair Housing Laws

The federal Fair Housing Act and the Wisconsin Fair Housing Law provide protections against discrimination in housing. Under these laws, it is illegal to discriminate in housing based on the following protected classes: race, color, family status, disability, sex, national origin, religion, marital status, ancestry, source of income, sexual orientation, age, and status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, or stalking. Examples of discrimination include, but are not limited to, refusing to sell or rent housing to a person in a protected class, or setting different terms or conditions in the sale or rental of housing based on a person’s membership in a protected class.1 2

2017 Wisconsin Act 243

This act of the Wisconsin Legislature, which was enacted in the spring of 2018, made several changes to how property development is regulated locally and also to housing. Several of the key changes are summarized below:

  1. Levy Limits “Creates an exception to general local levy limits to allow a city, village, or town to increase its levy by $1,000 for each new, single-family residential dwelling unit for which it has issued an occupancy permit,” if certain conditions apply. “Amounts levied under the exception may be used only for police, fire, and emergency medical services...”3
  2. Uniform Dwelling Code “The Act prohibits cities, villages, towns and counties from making or enforcing an ordinance that applies to a dwelling and is more restrictive than the state Uniform Dwelling Code or that is contrary to an order of the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) with respect to the enforcement of the Uniform Dwelling Code.”4
  3. Land Division & Plat Approval The Act authorizes “land divisions by certified survey map for land that is zoned for multi-family use, whereas prior law allowed such divisions only for land zoned commercial, industrial, or mixed-use.”5
  4. Park Dedication The Act authorizes “a city, village, town or county to offer a subdivider the option of dedicating land for a public park consistent with local park and comprehensive plans or paying a fee-in-lieu of dedicating land.”6
  5. Stormwater Regulation “The Act specifies that no additional charges, beyond those charged to similar properties, may be charged to a property for services rendered for a property that continually retains 90% of the difference between the post-development and predevelopment runoff on site.” In addition, with certain exceptions, current law prohibits a city, village or town from enacting “an ordinance relating to stormwater management unless the ordinance strictly conforms to uniform statewide standards. [s. 281.33 (3m), Stats.] The Act revises an exception for ordinances relating to flood control to instead apply to ordinances relating to peak flow to address existing flooding problems or to prevent future flooding problems, except an ordinance may not require more than 90% of the difference between pre-development and post- development annual runoff volume to be retained on the site.”7
  6. Local Reporting Requirements “The Act requires cities and villages with populations of 10,000 or more to prepare and post reports by January 1, 2020, and to update the reports annually thereafter, regarding a city’s or village’s implementation of the housing element of its comprehensive plan”, and these reports must adhere to certain requirements. Additionally, “the Act requires cities and villages with populations of 10,000 or more to prepare and post a report by January 1, 2020, regarding the city’s or village’s residential development fees”, and these are required to contain specified elements.8
  7. Compensation for Condemnation “The Act modifies state law relating to determining fair market value in condemnation cases and makes changes relating to payments for certain displaced persons in such cases.”9
  8. Building Inspections “The Act creates a new timeline for inspections provided by a local building inspector. Specifically, the Act requires a local building inspector to complete an inspection no later than 14 business days after receiving a request from a developer for an inspection. If a local inspector does not complete an inspection within that time, the Act authorizes a developer to request a state inspector with a comparable level of zoning and building inspection qualification as the local building inspector to perform the inspection. The Act requires a city, village, town, or county to accept a certificate of inspection provided by a state inspector in those circumstances.”10

Inclusionary Zoning

Wisconsin Statutes 66.1015(3), created under 2017 Act 243, prohibits a municipality from enacting, imposing or enforcing an inclusionary zoning ordinance, regulation or policy requiring “that a certain number or percentage of new or existing residential dwelling units in a land development be made available for rent or sale to an individual or family with a family income at or below a certain percentage of the median income.”11

Impact fees

Under 2017 Act 243, changes were made to the law regarding impact fees. According to the Wisconsin Legislative Council, “impact fees are payable to a municipality upon
issuance of a building permit by the municipality. [s. 66.0617 (6) (g), Stats.] For impact fees in excess of $75,000, the Act specifies that a developer may defer payment for a period of four years from the date of issuance of a building permit, or until six months before the municipality incurs costs related to the development for which the fees were imposed, whichever is earlier.” In addition, “the Act specifies that impact fees that are not used within eight years must be refunded to the payer with interest. Fees collected for costs related to lift stations or sewage treatment or collection must be used within 10 years, unless the municipality adopts a hardship resolution to extend the time period for an additional three years.” Also, the Act “limits the imposition of impact fees to specify that impact fees may not be imposed for increases in service capacity greater than the capacity necessary for the development for which the fee is imposed and that fees may not include expenses for operation or maintenance of a public facility.”12

2017 Wisconsin Act 317

This act of the Wisconsin legislature, which was enacted in the spring of 2018, made several changes to laws affecting rental housing, certain rental registration requirements, landlord-tenant relations, levy limit reductions for “covered services”, historic properties, and other areas. A few of the key changes are summarized below:

  1. Amount of Levy Limit Reduction for Covered Services “Under prior law, if a city, village, town, or county receives revenues designated to pay for a covered service (e.g. garbage collection, fire protection, snow plowing, street sweeping or stormwater management) that was funded in 2013 by the political subdivision’s levy, the political subdivision must reduce its levy limit in the current year by an amount equal to the estimated amount of fee revenue collected, or payments in lieu of taxes received, for providing the covered service, less any previous reductions made under this provision. The Act limits the amount by which a city, village, town, or county must reduce its levy to the amount expended in 2013 for providing the covered service.”21
  2. Historic Preservation “The Act requires cities, villages, towns, and counties to allow owners of property that is designated as a historic landmark or included within a historic district or neighborhood conservation district, when repairing or replacing such property, to use materials that are similar in design, color, scale, architectural appearance, and other visual qualities.”22

Property Tax Waivers/Exemptions

According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, “All property (in Wisconsin) is taxable unless exempted by state law. Article VIII of the State Constitution requires the uniform taxation of property. Article VIII also provides the following property taxation standards: 1) Legislature prescribes taxes on forest property; 2) Taxation of agricultural land and undeveloped land does not need to be uniform with the taxation of other real property.”23

Further, the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau reported in a 2016 paper that “(u)nder the current jurisprudence, the legislature cannot authorize the taxation of personal property at a different rate that that of real property or allow each municipality to decide for itself what property to tax or not tax within the municipality. The legislature cannot exclude a portion of a property’s value from the assessment of that property or allow assessors to use different assessment dates for different kinds of property in order to determine a property’s value.24 The Wisconsin Department of Revenue underscores how property tax is to be handled within the state in a November 2018 paper when it states that “While local governments are primarily responsible for administering the property tax, state statutes determine how these responsibilities are carried out.”25 This information demonstrates the kinds of limits placed upon municipalities in terms of the controls they can exercise over property taxation locally.

Remember that such rules change over time, and local governments have an important role in making certain that Federal and State elected officials understand positive and negative implications of such Federal and State rules.

Planning for Housing and Residential Development

This subsection summarizes general planning tools that communities may use to evaluate housing conditions and establish community housing strategies. By providing reliable information and adopting well-considered plans, communities are setting priorities and sharing a roadmap that can be used by the community to guide programming, land use regulations, and infrastructure investments. Such data and plans also send an important message of community needs, vision, and priorities to existing and potential residents, developers, investors, and partners.

Conduct a housing study and/or adopt a housing plan

Municipalities can conduct a range of housing-related studies, feasibility analysis, and plans, that can be incorporated into the municipality’s comprehensive plan. Such studies may be comprehensive or they can focus on a specific aspect of housing. See _______________ for a listing of housing studies completed within the Momentum West Region. For example, some communities have prepared and adopted an affordable housing plan, which sets out affordable housing targets for the community over a certain period of time. Such plans can be instrumental in achieving community goals related to affordable housing and meeting needs for such housing.

Ensure comprehensive plans are in place and updated

“A comprehensive plan is a local government’s guide to community physical, social and economic development. Comprehensive plans are not meant to serve as land use regulations in themselves; instead, they provide a rational basis for local land use decisions with a twenty-year vision for future planning and community decisions.” By state law, a comprehensive plan must be updated every 10 years to remain in effect.26

Housing is one of nine required comprehensive planning elements and must include an assessment of housing conditions as well as goals, objectives, policies, maps, and programs to provide an adequate housing supply that meets existing and forecasted housing demand. Comprehensive planning also requires the community to consider and plan for how housing relates to the other plan elements, including evaluating capacity of municipal services and the availability of land. Local subdivision, zoning, and official mapping ordinances must be consistent with the community’s comprehensive plan, except that a conditional use permit that may be issued by a political subdivision does not need to be consistent with the political subdivision's comprehensive plan. Comprehensive plans also require public participation, so it is a great opportunity to obtain public input or conduct a community survey to evaluate housing needs.

Access to a number of the recently enacted programs by the Wisconsin Legislature for housing require community comprehensive plans and the respective housing component to be up to date as a condition for eligibility.

Prepare a housing affordability report

Cities and villages with a population of 10,000 or more are required to prepare and make available a housing affordability report as described in Wisconsin Statutes 66.10013. Smaller municipalities may prepare similar reports at their discretion.

Adopt an affordable housing plan

Municipalities can adopt an affordable housing plan, which sets out affordable housing targets for the community over a certain period of time. Such plans can be instrumental in achieving community goals related to affordable housing and meeting needs for such housing. Affordable Housing Plans can also be incorporated into a municipality’s comprehensive plan.

Plan and Prepare for Builder and Developer Needs 

  • Easily accessible, good and current information.
  • Does your community website include information about available land or building sites?
  • Are your zoning and building codes easy to access and understand?
  • Is there a contact person for any questions or further information?
  • Are potential incentives and benefits available in your community communicated properly?
  • Does your community have available, buildable land?
  • Land parcels should be properly zoned or planned for housing.
  • Density potential should be considered as most developers will need to know how many units they can build.
  • Is there infrastructure in place or planned for? How is this being paid for?
  • Again, who is the point person for any questions or conversations?
  • Think like a developer
  • Explore public/private partnerships

Provide needed infrastructure, facilities, and services for housing development

Any housing development requires certain infrastructure, such as roads. Access to utilities (e.g., sewer, water, storm sewer, broadband, electric, natural gas) and other services (e.g., emergency services, waste collection, recreation, education) can all influence the local real estate market and land values. Many communities will use capital improvement plans and/or their comprehensive plans to evaluate and plan for such services. Traditionally, such services are paid for by the landowner or developer through taxes or an assessment, sometimes subsidized with grants, tax increment financing, or other funding sources as will be noted later. Such improvements are a costly investment and the resulting improvements can place further financial burdens on local services. Municipalities should plan carefully to ensure that enough infrastructure and resources are available to serve each proposed development.

Ensure land availability or provide land for housing at a reduced or no cost

Similarly, communities may also undertake studies and plans to assess land availability based on current and projected market demand. Section II.e. discusses land banking and how some communities have taken a more active, hands-on role in the development and sale of land, including providing land at a reduced or no cost option to the developer. As an incentive, Rice Lake and Hayward have executed land contracts with developers that included a non-transferable credit towards the land value for every housing unit that is developed. For example, a developer could receive a $6,000 credit/unit towards a $100,000 property; with 16 units developed, the developer essentially would only pay $4,000 for the land.

Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for planning

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) can be used to analyze housing development and land use. For example, GIS can overlay zoning maps with land parcels and tax information to assess land use and density trends and identify infill or development opportunities.

Make placemaking and quality of life part of your housing strategy

Packaging together initiatives to make your community a more attractive place to live, work, and play, helps it be known for its quality of life and provides an opportunity to attract new residents and exceed the household and housing demand projections. People make a decision to live where they do for many reasons, not just the affordability of land or availability of a home. This may especially be true of the millennial generation who has been referred to as the “job-hopping generation” due to their high mobility. When communities are competing for workforce and development investment, quality and sense of place can be a deciding factor. There are many different placemaking approaches and tools available (e.g., Project for Public Spaces, Better Block Foundation, First Impressions, UW- Extension’s Community Placemaking guide, Creative Placemaking). Consider conducting a site- specific or community-wide placemaking exercise, then integrate these placemaking and quality of life principles into your comprehensive plan, site planning, and community volunteerism efforts.

Develop innovative street/sidewalk/right-of-way designs to promote safety and more housing choices

Because housing and transportation (e.g. walking, biking, mass transit, auto, etc.) are closely related, “encouraging narrower roads (and rights-of-way) is one of the best ways to increase safety and comfort” for local residents that prefer to walk between their housing and other destinations. Additionally, providing sidewalks for pedestrians allows them to save money on automobile transportation, thus freeing up more disposable income for housing. “Where appropriate, communities can make large, wide roads safer and more attractive by expanding sidewalks and adding landscaped ‘planting strips’ that buffer the sidewalk from the street”.27 While creating narrower streets and rights-of-way can promote pedestrian and biking activity, it can also allow communities to decrease the costs of housing development or shore up more resources for it. Another way to accomplish cost savings for housing is to consider requiring sidewalks on only one side of the street, which also reduces impervious surfaces.28

Help seniors explore “aging in place” strategies

A local government could help seniors in its community connect to resources that allow them to “age in place”. It could even provide its own resources (e.g. grant funds) to a local agency to help make “aging in place” a reality for seniors. This principle refers to enabling people to remain in their own home, even as they grow older and as their housing becomes more challenging to live in. Alterations could be made to a home to make it easier for living (e.g. ramps, grab bars in the bathroom, stair lifts) or services can be provided that allow people to fulfill their needs (e.g. assistance with meals, household chores, or personal care).29 An extension of this concept is “aging in community”, where the physical, programmatic, and social characteristics of the larger neighborhood and community are considered. The Aging & Disability Resource Center of Northwest Wisconsin, which covers Polk and Burnett counties and the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin, has an office in Balsam Lake that could be helpful in terms of providing information and/or other resources for seniors to help them “age in place”.30

Evaluate opportunities for and encourage infill development

According to the Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC), a nonprofit consulting group based in Washington state, “(i)nfill development is the process of developing vacant or under-used parcels within existing urban areas that are already largely developed… Ideally, infill development involves more than the piecemeal development of individual lots. Instead, a successful infill development program should focus on the job of crafting complete, well-functioning neighborhoods.”31 This approach to development could be utilized in existing neighborhoods in rural cities and villages, as well. Infill development takes advantage of assets of land, infrastructure, or buildings that a community already possesses and repurposes them for future uses that will benefit local residents. At the same time, this approach can help preserve natural areas that otherwise would have been subject to development pressures.

Evaluate opportunities for and encourage adaptive reuse

One approach to providing housing involves rehabilitating a building that already exists for a use other than that for which it was originally designed. Examples include fire stations, schools, or churches. While adaptive reuse can help communities increase the longevity of existing assets, it can also help to promote sustainability by avoiding the environmental impacts of new construction. Communities may need to amend their zoning ordinance to allow for adaptive reuse.

Land Use Regulations and Housing

This subsection reviews the more common land use policy tools that can be used to guide local housing. In particular, many local units of government use subdivision and zoning regulations to guide housing development. Such standards can influence infill and redevelopment potential as well as the type, style, and layout of new residential development.

Amend land use regulations to allow for or encourage desired housing types and patterns 

If the community has identified specific housing needs, it should evaluate existing land use policies and regulations. Do they permit a diversity of housing choices or encourage the development patterns that the community needs or desires? Are the regulations consistent with the vision and housing goals of the community’s comprehensive plan, while ensuring that residential development will have access and linkages to appropriate infrastructure, services, and amenities? Do they allow for infill development and adaptive reuse? Sub-section II.e. further discusses some of these options.

Example: Amend the zoning ordinance relative to minimum floor area requirements

Some zoning ordinances regulate the house size or unit size by establishing minimum floor area requirements. To provide flexibility in the type and size of unit, communities could explore amending their zoning ordinance to reduce or remove the minimum floor area in existing residential zoning district(s) or consider creating a new residential zoning district that allows a smaller building footprint.

Modify design standards to enable the development of small lots

Design standards can encourage smaller lot sizes, which tend to provide more affordable homeownership opportunities (e.g. smaller housing units). One way to provide an increased number of smaller lots is through “lot size averaging,” which “is an approach to subdividing land that allows a parcel of land to be divided into unequally-sized lots as long as the average of all the lot sizes remains equal to or above the minimum zoned lot size”.32 Other approaches include creating lots with narrow widths or with flexible or minimal setbacks, which in turn can create a more inviting neighborhood aesthetic that encourages increased biking or pedestrian activity. In terms of smaller housing units, The Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force notes that such units “support smaller families, singles and downsizing families/seniors; the ‘bookends’ of the housing types, which may open opportunities for growing families in existing housing stock.”33

Encourage higher density housing

Communities can explore the potential for developing higher density housing in areas where such development may be appropriate, for example, in the downtown areas of villages and cities. Higher density housing may help reduce the costs of housing and make a project more cost-feasible for the developer by creating economies of scale (e.g. spreading land and permitting costs over a larger number of units, reducing infrastructure costs per unit).34 According to the draft summary recommendations from the Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force released in March 2019, higher density housing could be accomplished by “amending setback requirements, lot sizes, allowable uses and intensity.” The Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force also included in its recommendations that projects could be prioritized that “facilitate higher density in nodes and corridors well served by transit, infrastructure and amenities.”35 Close access to such services and resources could have the effect of reducing overall living costs for residents, thus making housing more affordable. (See “Myths and Facts of High-Density Housing” on page 13)

Consider shadow platting at the urban-rural interface

Shadow platting is the careful design of a low-density subdivision with larger lots in a manner that will allow for further subdivision of these lots for a higher density in the future. This may include laying out and protecting potential future roads and utility easement through official mapping. Shadow platting is most often used for rural subdivisions that are expected to receive urban services (e.g., public sewer, improved roads) at some point in the future, with the urban services allowing for higher development densities. Shadow platting can be complex, can influence the buyer market, and can be difficult to implement since the future land divisions are frequently voluntary at the discretion of the landowners.

Develop a density bonus program

Density bonuses are a land division or zoning tool that permit developers to build more housing units, taller buildings, or more floor space than normally allowed, in exchange for the provision of a defined public benefit, such as a specified number or percentage of affordable units included in a development. This tool can be designed to allow developers to contribute to a housing fund in lieu of building the affordable units.36

Explore the use of incentive zoning

Incentive zoning is a zoning tool that offers developers regulatory allowances in exchange for public benefits, such as the development of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income persons. Incentives could include density bonuses, flexible development regulations, parking reductions, fee waivers, permitting priority, etc.

Establish a form-based code

According to the Form-Based Codes Institute, form-based codes are an approach to community design that “address(es) the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks.” This approach to design “contrasts with conventional zoning’s focus on the micromanagement and segregation of land uses, and the control of development intensity through abstract and uncoordinated parameters (e.g., Floor Area Ratios, dwellings per acre, setbacks, parking ratios, traffic levels of service), to the neglect of an integrated built form.”37 Less important are the particular uses in the built environment and more important is the way the buildings relate to each other. By using a form-based code in an appropriate section of a community, greater flexibility is available to provide housing in locations where it may not have been possible under typical zoning schemes.

Explore the use of Planned Development District (PDD) zoning

As allowed under Wisconsin Statute 62.23(7)(b), a council may, with the consent of the owners, establish special districts, to be called planned development districts, with regulations that “over a period of time tend to promote the maximum benefit from coordinated area site planning, diversified location of structures and mixed compatible uses.” PDD zoning allows a developer to meet land use goals without being required to comply with the existing zoning requirements. It provides flexibility in the project design and can potentially be used for mixed use development, traditional neighborhood design and infill or redevelopment projects.

Consider implementing a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program for housing development

TDRs allow a municipality to guide development by redirecting certain development rights or development densities from one area (a sending site) to another (a receiving site) to achieve certain community goals. Most frequently, the goal is to permanently conserve the sending site as open space, farmland, or other low-density use, thereby allowing a density bonus for development at the receiving site. According to Local Housing Solutions, a project coordinated by the National Community of Practice (CoP) on Local Housing Policy at New York University’s Furman Center and Abt Associates, one idea that some communities are implementing is to allow existing housing developments to also serve as “sending sites.” This approach permits the existing development to raise funds to recapitalize and upgrade their units and preserve long-term affordability by selling their unused development capacity to other sites. For example, a TDR program in Arlington County, Virginia aims to preserve the affordability of historic garden apartments by allowing these apartments to serve as “sending sites” that channel excess density to other parts of the County. Some communities have also established TDR banks that enable municipalities to purchase development rights and hold them until a “receiving site” is available.38

Reduce parking requirements

A reduction in parking requirements increases the space available for housing units and can also create an opening to provide a greater number of housing choices (e.g. smaller, multi-family units) that tend to be more compatible with a wider variety of transportation options (e.g. pedestrian, bicycle).

Expedite permitting and consider building/zoning fee reductions for affordable housing projects

Communities can accelerate the permitting process for housing developers in cases when “some or all of the units are reserved for lower-income households, both to reduce overall project development costs and to encourage the delivery of affordable (housing units)”. “Expedited permitting is (not likely) to encourage market-rate developers to include affordable units (on its own)”; however, “as part of a package of incentives… it can be a valuable benefit, particularly in areas where the permitting process is lengthy.”39 Additionally, the Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force included in its draft recommendations from March 2019 that communities could “evaluate building/zoning fee reductions or rebates for projects that meet affordable housing criteria.”40 Like expedited permitting, fee reductions could help incentivize the development of affordable housing.

Consider impact fee waivers as an incentive for increased housing development

Per Wisconsin Statute 66.0617(7), impact fee waivers provide a low-cost housing impact fee exception as follows:

“(7) LOW-COST HOUSING. An ordinance enacted under this section may provide for an exemption from, or a reduction in the amount of, impact fees on land development that provides low-cost housing, except that no amount of an impact fee for which an exemption or reduction is provided under this subsection may be shifted to any other development in the land development in which the low-cost housing is located or to any other land development in the municipality.”

Encouraging Specific Residential Types and Patterns

This subsection discusses some commonly used tools to encourage or achieve certain types or patterns of residential development. These residential types and development concepts may be market driven as well as advocated by the local municipality through the community’s comprehensive plan or regulatory policies.

Allow for alternative housing types in order to meet a greater variety of housing needs

If carefully planned and sited, alternative housing types can provide housing opportunities that are affordable while still meeting a household’s needs. Local regulations may need to be modified to allow for such housing types or to ensure that such residential uses are appropriately integrated into their neighborhood context. Such alternative housing options could include:

Manufactured, Factory-Built, or Prefabricated Housing Assembled off-site and subsequently transported to the site of end-use. It can include modular (or side-by-side) homes, panelized homes, pre-cut homes, and mobile homes. Manufactured homes can be a quick, efficient, and affordable method of increasing the number of housing units in a short period of time. However, these homes can be harder to finance because they are generally considered personal property and not real estate. A manufactured home can be considered real estate by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and generally lenders follow suit, if it meets the following criteria:

  • It is set on or anchored to a permanent foundation.
  • The site is served by permanent water and sewer facilities approved by the local municipal authority, if available at the site.
  • An all-weather roadway must serve the site.
  • The entire property must be taxed as real estate.
  • The towing hitch or running gear must have been removed.
  • No part of the finished grade level under the home is below the 100-year flood level.
  • Structural integrity must have been maintained during transportation and sufficient anchoring, support and stability must be evident.
  • Typically, the home must have been constructed after 1976.

If the manufactured house is classified as real property, you may be able to finance it with a mortgage. The loans work almost the same as financing for traditional “stick-built” houses and a lender will probably work through a Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or government-backed mortgage. Also, the Veterans Administration (VA), Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) all have manufactured home programs, but each has different rules. An applicant may need slightly higher down payments, slightly better credit scores, and/or pay higher fees, but these programs are the most affordable financing for manufactured houses. If the manufactured home is considered personal property, it is possible to obtain a loan on it as personal property. Generally, a buyer will need five percent down and the home must be reasonably new. Interest rates will be higher than mortgage rates because loans for movable property are riskier for lenders. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) backs loans for manufactured homes with its Title I program, and rates can be negotiated with private lenders offering this loan type, but these loans are offered by relatively few lenders and they prefer newer homes. A buyer can also use a personal loan to finance a mobile home, but because a personal loan is based on the financial strength of the individual, not the property, there is no appraisal or questions about the home.

Live/Work Space “A space that combines (a) workspace (and) living quarters.” Typically the workspace portion (i.e. business) faces the street on the ground level, while the living space could be located above, behind or beside the workspace.41 This potentially includes allowing for home-based businesses or cottage industries that are appropriate for the neighborhood context.

Tiny Homes Housing structure that is much smaller than the typical American home. Many tiny homes have a square footage between 100 to 400 square feet. Tiny homes can expand housing options for people who are choosing to downsize and simplify their living arrangements or to help those in need.42 For example, the City of Chippewa Falls has allowed a local church to place tiny homes on church property as a source of housing for homeless veterans.

  • Tiny Home Example: The City of Chippewa Fall, WI has allowed a local church to place tiny homes on church property as a source of housing for homeless veterans. The City reviews and approves tiny homes under a Special Use Permit; each home requires a separate permit and approval. The units are sited in side yards, parking lots and are screened from view. City of Chippewa Falls Zoning Ordinance: 17ZOCO_AD_17.48SPUSRE
  • Tiny Home Example: St. Croix County is undertaking a comprehensive revision to the County’s zoning ordinance. The proposed amendments include the addition of provisions for tiny houses; per the current public hearing draft, a tiny house is defined as a one-family dwelling that is less than 720 square feet in floor area, excluding lofts. A tiny house is permitted as a principal use where allowed as a condition of a Planned Development (PD) rezoning. Each house requires its own individual lot. Under the proposed ordinance, a tiny house that is on wheels, mounted on a wheeled trailer chassis, is considered a “camping unit” and is only permitted in a campground. Proposed St. Croix County Zoning Ordinance:
  • A tiny home could also be allowed as an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) – see below for ADU ordinance examples.

Accessory Dwelling Units (i.e. “Granny Flats”) Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are “smaller, independent residential dwelling unit(s) located on the same lot as a stand-alone (i.e. detached) single-family home.” These units “can be converted portions of existing homes…additions to new or existing homes…or new stand-alone accessory structures or converted portions of existing stand-alone accessory structures.” In some cases, they can be considered a type of tiny home as discussed above. ADUs have “the potential to increase housing affordability (both for homeowners and tenants), create a wider range of housing options within the community, enable seniors to stay near family as they age, and facilitate better use of the existing housing fabric in established neighborhoods”.43 ADU’s and the increased density and service demand may not be appropriate for every neighborhood.

  • ADU Example: The Village of Weston, WI allows an ADU as a Conditional Use in six different residential zoning districts. Performance standards are identified in the Ordinance and include items such as a maximum gross floor area, residential character and occupancy limitations. Village of Weston Zoning Ordinance: 2019?bidId=
  • ADU Example: The City of Sturgeon Bay, WI allows an ADU as a Conditional Use in several residential zoning districts as well as the agricultural district. Standards for an ADU include minimum lot size, maximum square feet, and parking, among other standards. The ADU shall comply with all building code regulations relating
    to dwellings. City of Sturgeon Bay Zoning Ordinance: CH20ZOCO_20.10USREDI

Consider implementing policies that allow for or promote the mixing of housing types 

Communities throughout the country have carried out housing projects that depart from specifically targeting “low-income” or “market-rate” populations by including a mix of incomes, or even owners and renters, in the same development. A mix of housing types and households with different income levels has the potential to avoid concentrations of poverty or could better match housing to jobs. At the same time, a focus on mixed-income housing can lead to communities not putting enough emphasis on meeting the most urgent housing needs or could displace lower income individuals from areas where mixed-income projects are sited. As such, communities should approach proposals to develop mixed-income projects carefully.

Consider implementing policies that encourage development of “missing middle” housing

The “missing middle” is a term used to describe housing types with densities that fall between detached single-family homes and larger mid-rise multi-family buildings. Housing types include duplex, triplex, and fourplex, courtyard apartments, townhouses, live/work units, among others. While these unit types typically provide for medium density, they often have a lower perceived density due to their design and small building footprint.

Consider the fourplex building on the right; while this structure contains four units visually it appears to be a single-family home. The small building footprint and building design helps the structure blend into the character of an existing single-family neighborhood. “Missing middle building types can help developers maximize affordability and returns without compromising quality by providing housing types that are simple and affordable to build.”44

Source: “Missing Middle Housing: Responding to the Demand for Walkable Urban Living. Parolek, Dan. Opticos Design

Promote mixed-use development

Mixed-use development combines a variety of uses, such as residential, commercial and others, in a way that make these uses physically integrated with each other and that allows them to relate to each other functionally. This includes mixing and integrating different types and styles of residential development. Similar to the previous discussion on form-based codes, place more emphasis on function and context, rather than strict definitions of land use or housing styles. Look for ways (e.g., site and building designs, multi-modal connectivity) that will allow a mix of housing and land use types that are compatible with the overall neighborhood context and foster a sense of community. As a result of this type of flexible development, more housing choices can be offered to a community, including life-cycle housing (e.g. from efficiency units for younger single people to senior housing).

Housing in mixed-use developments, which often is located in environments friendly to pedestrians, can provide greater access to amenities and services in the surrounding community, while also helping to reduce transportation costs. Mixed-use can be vertical (e.g., commercial on ground floor with residential above) or horizontal (e.g., single-use structures or groups of structures within a block or development). Vertical mixed-use is especially important within downtowns since it provides a “built-in” client base of potential customers on the second floor, while maintaining commercial uses on the ground floor to preserve the fabric, compactness, and continuity of the traditional business district. The new River Prairie development in the City of Altoona is an excellent example of a newer mixed-use development.

Other things to consider when integrating multi-family housing into a community include:

  • Utilize the same setbacks as single-family homes for multi-family development.
  • Manage building heights and have stories “step down” as they near lower-density development.
  • Quality exterior materials that relate to the character of the existing housing.
  • Walk-up units that maintain a pedestrian scale connection with the surrounding neighborhood.
  • Building massing that mimics lower density housing nearby.

Responsible management and maintenance of properties is also critical to the successful integration of multi-family housing into a community. It is helpful to establish good communication between the landlord and the community. Wisconsin has adopted restrictions on rental licensing by local governments, but it is beneficial for the local government and the landlord to collaborate on potential issues of on-site management, nuisances and tenant selection. Encourage best practices by landlords of rental properties, such as including trash collection in monthly rent and providing property receptacles.

Adopt design standards for new residential development and redevelopment

Some communities have adopted design standards to ensure that new development or redevelopment is compatible with and consistent with the aesthetic and form of the surrounding uses and neighborhood. Ensuring quality design for proposed affordable and multi-family housing development can also be important to gaining community acceptance of such projects. Design standards are not necessarily limited to the visual appeal of structures, but can include building form, landscaping, and other aspects of site planning as well as being sensitive to diverse perspectives and cultures. These standards are most commonly incorporated into local zoning ordinances but could be codified in other forms (e.g., subdivision ordinance, site plan review policies). As an alternative, certain design standards can be required if the development is seeking financial assistance from the local government.

  • Residential Design Standards Example: The Town of Ledgeview, Wisconsin adopted Design Guidelines for Multi-Family Residential Development in October 2016. The Guidelines provide standards for building types, siting context, site planning & layout, public spaces and building design. The guidelines are “intended to assist project applicants during the project design phase and Town staff and decision makers in the review and approval process.” Town of Ledgeview Design Guidelines for Multi-Family Residential Development:  
  • Residential Design Standards Example: The City of Eau Claire, Wisconsin adopted a Multi-family Housing Design Manual into it’s Zoning Ordinance in December 2019. These guidelines assist the City with review of multi-family housing proposals in a consistent manner based on community-accepted standards. The City’s Comprehensive Plan includes a policy to “promote better quality design for multiple- family housing so that it becomes a more acceptable form of housing with better visual appeal and lasting value.” City of Eau Claire Multi-Family Housing Design Manual:

Adapt zoning and subdivision regulations to encourage Traditional Neighborhood Design (TND)

Traditional Neighborhood Design (TND) is a specific design standard that “includes a variety of housing types, a mixture of land uses, an active center, a walkable design and often a transit option within a compact neighborhood scale area”. Its characteristics include “a network of well-connected streets and blocks (with) a variety of public spaces, and (it) should have amenities such as stores, schools and places of worship within walking distance of residences.”45 It also places emphasis on smaller lots and more shallow setbacks.46 TND is often implemented as an overlay zoning district with additional design standards for the underlying or base zoning district, frequently used for infill or redevelopment in older neighborhoods or applied to new development for which the community or developer desires the look, feel, and experience of a traditional neighborhood. A model ordinance for a TND47, available on the WI Department of Administration website, was prepared to assist Wisconsin communities. A community may choose to integrate a few desired aspects of TND design into their ordinances (e.g., setback distances from a sidewalk, garage is setback from the home, homes have a front porch with main entranceway) or utilize Planned Development District (PDD) zoning.

Consider adopting land use policies that provide opportunities for conservation design or cluster development

Conservation design, also known as cluster development, “is a type of (development) in which the underlying zoning and subdivision ordinances are modified to allow buildings (usually residences) to be grouped together on part of the site while permanently protecting the remainder of the site from development… Besides protecting unbuildable areas such as wetlands, waterbodies, floodplains and steep slopes, it can also be used to preserve woodland, farmland, (and) upland buffers around water, meadows, and critical habitat.”48 Conservation design is most frequently administered as part of subdivision regulations, with the open space protected by conservation easement, potentially in conjunction with density bonuses or density transfer tools, such as the Transfer of Development Rights noted previously. Due to protected open space, a well-designed conservation subdivision can yield higher market prices per lot, but this tool may not be a good fit for more affordable housing needs, since it typically requires a larger development area and does not offer future infill opportunities.

Explore the possibility of including cohousing arrangements as part of the local housing mix “

Cohousing is an intentional community of private (residences) clustered around shared space. Each attached or single-family (housing unit) has traditional amenities. Shared spaces typically feature a common house, which may include a large kitchen and dining area, laundry, and recreational spaces. Shared outdoor space may include parking, walkways, open space, and gardens. Neighbors also share resources like tools and lawnmowers. Households have independent incomes and private lives, but neighbors collaboratively plan and manage community activities and shared spaces.”49 Because of the sharing of resources and the collective responsibility for the maintenance of common areas, cohousing arrangements can also allow residents to live more affordably.

Encourage the preservation of historic structures for housing

Historic structures and other unique architectural forms can reinforce sense of place and community identity while providing opportunities for housing without the cost of extending infrastructure. In addition to adaptive reuse discussed previously, communities can consider establishing a Historic District or Architectural Conservancy District with design standards, related resources, and incentives (e.g., rehabilitation loans, waivers) as well as promote the use of the resources in Section VI.c. Applying the standard State building code to older homes can be expensive. As an alternative, a municipality can adopt a historic preservation ordinance certified by the State Historical Society, which may allow locally designated historic buildings to fall under a more flexible historic building code.

Encourage high performance building design (green buildings)

The Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force, in its Draft Summary Recommendations released in March 2019, recommended the exploration “of incentives or programs that encourage high- performance building design (‘green buildings’) that may reduce long-term operations and ownership costs and improve environmental performance.”50 This could be expanded to encompass programming and policies that encourage or allow for energy-efficiency, solar access, etc.

Ensure that local regulations allow for Community Living Arrangements

Community Living Arrangements (CLA) is “a (common) name for community-based residential facilities for adults (CBRFs), group homes for children, and private child care institutions, for purposes of s. 46.03(22), Wisconsin Statutes, dealing with the siting of these facilities and overriding of local zoning ordinances.”51

Myths and Facts of Higher-Density Housing

Communities often struggle with incorporating higher-density residential developments into the existing fabric of a neighborhood or overall community. The Urban Land Institute partnered with the National Multi-Family Housing Council, Sierra Club, and the American Institute of Architects on the publication of “Higher Density Development Myth and Fact” in 2005, in response to the difficulties of developing higher- density housing. The myths and facts below are taken directly from this publication.


Higher density development overburdens public schools and other public services and requires more infrastructure support systems


The nature of who lives in higher density housing – fewer families with children – puts less demand on schools and other public services than low-density development. Moreover, the compact nature of higher density development requires less extensive infrastructure to support it.


Higher density developments lower property values in surrounding areas.


No discernible different exists in the appreciation rate of properties located near higher-density development and those that are not. Some research even shows that higher density development can increase property values.


Higher density development creates more regional traffic congestion and parking problems than low-density development.


Higher-density development generates less traffic than low-density development per unit, it makes walking and public transit more feasible and creates opportunities for shared parking.


Higher density development leads to higher crime rates.


The crime rates at higher-density developments are not significantly different from those at lower-density developments.


Higher density development is environmentally more destructive than lower density development.


Low-density development increases air and water pollution and destroys natural areas by paving and urbanizing greater swaths of land.


Higher density development is unattractive and does not fit in a low- density community.


Attractive, well-designed, and well-maintained higher density development attracts good residents and tenants and fits into existing communities.


No one in suburban areas wants higher-density development.


Our population is changing and becoming increasingly diverse. Many of these households now prefer higher-density housing, even in suburban locations.


Higher-density housing is only for lower-income households. 


People of all income groups choose higher-density housing.


Other Local Government Tools to Guide Housing

The following are some additional tools available to local units of government that may be used to help finance housing development. Keep in mind the limitations discussed previously in Section II.a.

Conduct housing education and outreach

Educating existing and potential residents, elected officials, developers, local businesses, housing partners, and other stakeholders regarding housing is an inexpensive tool. Such educating can include activities such as:

  • Sharing data and engaging in a community conversation on housing issues, needs, barriers, and solutions.
  • Market opportunities, such as available lots as well as redevelopment, reuse, or infill opportunities.
  • Working with partners to making information available (e.g., brochure, weblinks) about the key tools and partners listed in this toolbox and where to go for additional information.
  • Provide access to housing seminars, one-on-one counseling, mentors, etc. Such education could be a requirement of housing-related grants or loans.
  • Consolidate, rebrand, and re-market existing programs for clarity and added attention.

Encourage cooperation and partnerships

As discussed throughout this toolbox, cooperation and partnerships from all stakeholders (public, private, and non-profit) are vital to effectively and efficiently address local housing needs. This starts with regular communications, whether informal, as part of a work group, or as part of a community (or county) housing/development roundtable discussion. This can also take the form of creating new partnerships at a local, county, or even regional level to best leverage available resources and address shared housing goals. Additionally, these efforts may involve marketing to potential partners in order to obtain their involvement in addressing a particular high-priority need.

Housing and building codes, permitting, and inspections

The State of Wisconsin has a uniform dwelling code for the construction and inspection of single- family and two-family homes, which is enforced by the local unit of government. Multi-family housing with 3+ units falls under the Commercial Building Code with additional standards and State plan review. Communities enact building codes to protect the health and safety of the public related to the construction and operation of buildings. Further, building permits allow local governments a mechanism to enforce their codes in order to ensure safety standards are met. Inspections are an important part of this process to ensure that newly constructed or renovated buildings are in compliance with local codes and that permits can be issued. While health and safety are important reasons to utilize these tools, they can also be used to help ensure buildings and development projects are in line with planning objectives and community design patterns that municipalities are pursuing. In support of housing development, some communities have streamlined or clarified permitting processes through a centralized one-stop permit desk and/or making checklists/flowcharts available.

Wisconsin municipalities can enact additional housing codes and nuisance ordinances under their general authority or police powers to protect health, safety, and welfare. Housing codes may include standards for how a dwelling unit is used and maintained, including related complaint procedures and enforcement by the community, local public health department, etc. Some communities providing publicly-assisted housing have used a portion of their grant dollars to assist with routine inspections.

Providing for condo conversion protections within a municipality’s ordinance

Wisconsin law places limits on the ability of owners to convert residential real property to condominiums. An example is when a multi-unit rental housing development under sole ownership is converted into individually owned condominium units that are sold. Under Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 703.08 “Residential real property may not be converted to a condominium unless the owner gives prior written notice of the conversion to each of the tenants of the building or buildings scheduled for conversion. During the 60-day period immediately following the date of delivery of the notice a tenant has the first right to purchase the unit for any of the following:

  • The price at which the unit is being offered on the market.
  • The price contained in any accepted offer to purchase the unit.
  • The price otherwise agreed to by the tenant and the seller.”52

Additionally, an owner cannot require a tenant “to vacate the property during the 120-day period immediately following the date of delivery of the notice except for: (a) Violation of a covenant in the lease; or (b) Nonpayment of rent.”53 The tenant may waive these rights enumerated under Chapter 703.08.

Alternatives to inclusionary zoning

As an alternative to inclusionary zoning (discussed previously), municipalities could consider, as suggested by the Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force, requiring affordable units in projects that receive public financing (or that are located on land purchased from a municipality), because such requirement could be a condition of a funding agreement between the municipality and the developer. These agreements could also be tied to other performance criteria, such as universal design (i.e. buildings that are accessible to everyone, regardless of disability, age, etc.) or ADA accessibility.

Look for opportunities for the municipality to serve in the role as developer or manager

As opposed to relying on private-sector developers, who often have different motivations than municipalities when selecting the kinds of projects to pursue, municipalities themselves can serve in the role of developer in order to achieve the housing goals they have for their communities. This activity can be carried out directly by the local unit of government or through a housing authority, redevelopment corporation, etc.

As an example, the community could acquire a deteriorating property by purchase or condemnation; conduct demolition; and remediate the property of all environmental contamination, thus making it ready for development; and then sell it. The municipal razing of structures should be carried out in accordance with Wisconsin Statute 66.0413. Alternatively, a community might choose to maintain ownership of a property and manage all aspects of a development project itself, including the construction of homes and marketing/sale of individual lots. If the municipality utilizes any funding sources with restrictions (e.g. affordability), then those restrictions could be attached to the property through a legal instrument, such as a deed restriction. The specific instrument to be used would be dictated by the individual situation. Essentially, this approach to development is a form of land banking, which strategically acquires and preserves multiple properties for desired and needed housing development. It should be noted that land banking can be carried out in undeveloped areas or on available property in existing neighborhoods. This tool comes with risks, since larger economic factors out of the community’s control can influence the housing market. Before making a decision to act in such a role, municipalities will need to ensure they have the financial and organizational capacity to successfully see projects through from beginning to end.

As one example from the west central Wisconsin region shows, municipalities can take on projects that transform their communities. In the City of Altoona, local officials acquired land along the Eau Claire River and took the necessary steps to get it ready for a large mixed-use development. Today, offices, retail, housing and a public park offer a variety of unique amenities to local residents and visitors, making the new River Prairie Development a gem in western Wisconsin.

Deed restrictions

Besides zoning, restrictions on the use of property can be accomplished through deed restrictions, which “are restrictions contained in the deed that limit how a property can be used and what can be built on it. Most often developers include restrictions not covered by local zoning regulations. They ‘run with the land,’ which means that anyone who buys the property in the future is supposed to abide by the restrictions.”54 For example, if a funder is providing funds to a housing development that rents to low-income tenants, a deed restriction can be placed upon the property to codify the income requirements in the development into the future.

Advocacy & political support

Local government can help to further the production and sustainability of housing in various ways, for example by providing letters of support for tax credit applications or advocating for policies that advance all manner of housing programming and policies that meet local planning and development goals. Let elected federal and state officials know the community’s needs and challenges. Advocate together, with partners, to share a common message of the community’s top housing needs, regulatory challenges, financial barriers, and desired programmatic/rule changes. Further, local governments can help to educate residents on the benefits of certain housing initiatives and can limit processing difficulties for partners working to assist in developing or maintaining the housing stock and available housing choices.

Financial Tools for Communities and Partners

This section identifies financial resources and tools that may be available to communities and other partner organizations (e.g., non-profits, housing authorities, development organizations, community action programs, employers) to help address local housing needs or encourage new housing development. Many of these tools can be implemented cooperatively, including at a county or regional level. Key partners for these resources are included in Section IX. The resources noted here may be used to create direct assistance programs for individual homeowners and renters as well as provide support for other housing programming.

Local housing Revolving Loan Funds (RLF)

A tool that many communities and counties are increasingly using for housing is a revolving loan fund. These funds provide a stable pool of money for ongoing housing needs by utilizing recycled payments from old loans in order to issue new loans. The funds can be used together with traditional funding sources and often help bridge private loans and the amount required to purchase, construct, and/or rehab a home.

A strength of a housing RLF is that the administering entity has the ability to establish the fund eligibility and priorities based on local housing needs, subject to any requirements of the funding source(s). For example, a housing RLF can provide rehabilitation loans with priority based on factors such as: income; target group (e.g., LMI, seniors, migrant); owner-occupied vs. rental housing; and/or type of renovation (e.g., ADA accessibility, winterization, health/safety concerns).

Regional & Local Community Development Block Grant Housing Program RLFs

Housing RLFs are already a tool in use within Polk County, as previously mentioned with the Regional CDBG Housing Program. In addition, Polk County and the communities of Amery, Balsam Lake, Clayton, Dresser, Frederic, Luck, and Milltown have all established their own CDBG housing revolving loan funds. The funds can be used to assist LMI owners, homebuyers, rental unit developers, and others (please note that individual program area priorities are established by local units of government). Owner-occupied loans are no-interest and deferred payment, and loans to developers are also set at zero-interest and repaid through monthly installments. As the funds are repaid, they revolve to assist other LMI-related projects. In some cases the communities administer these programs, and in others hired administrators (such as the Chippewa County Housing Authority or other consultants) are utilized. Funding to recapitalize these local programs is no longer available through the Wisconsin Department of Administration. Instead, new funding goes to the Regional CDBG Housing Program and is funneled through to Polk County residents. The Regional and Community CDBG programs are coordinated to make best use of the funding resource and to serve the largest number of persons possible.

Some other examples of RLFs in Wisconsin are below:

Home Sweet Menomonie

  • Although not located in Polk County, this kind of program could prove useful to the County’s communities.
  • The program “combines public, employer and private contributions” to provide loans “for downpayment assistance to employees of participating businesses who wish to own homes within the City of Menomonie.” Up to $10,000 loans are available and amortized over a schedule that is flexible (often 10 years) at no interest. “The last year’s scheduled payment may be forgiven if (the homeowner makes) documented improvements to (the) home, such as physical repairs or upgrades.”58
  • According to Dan Osterman, senior vice president for BMO Harris Bank and vice president of the Greater Menomonie Development Corporation, “The goal of the program is to increase awareness and resources for homeownership with local employees, increase homeownership rates within our City, increase resources for the renovation of homes, and root local employees within core neighborhoods.”59
  • Unlike the Regional and Community CDBG Housing Programs, income limits are not tied to this program.

Live it Up Wausau

  • This program is substantially similar to “Home Sweet Menomonie.” One additional feature of the program is that downpayment assistance for historic homes (50 years old or older) or homes in a historic area could be up to $15,000, instead of the normal $10,000. To fund this program, the City utilizes federal HOME dollars, Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, and Live It Up funds that are available at the local community foundation.60
  • Similar to Home Sweet Menomonie, income limits are not tied to this program.

Housing trust funds

Many types of governments throughout the Unites States have established housing trust funds, which provide funding for affordable housing for low-income households and individuals. Housing trust funds can be funded in a variety of ways; however, sources such as real estate taxes or document recording fees often can provide a reliable funding stream that is less dependent on the unpredictability of annual budgetary processes. This tool can come in a variety of forms, such as direct loans or grants to recipients. In addition, a community that establishes a housing trust fund
can create a revolving loan fund to assist homebuyers as a component of the trust fund program or as an initiative that complements the trust fund’s development activities. The City of Madison created a housing trust fund in 2014 and has a goal to create “1,000 additional units of housing by 2020.” To achieve that goal, it is contributing more than $20 million to the fund over a five-year period. The Affordable Housing Trust Fund in Madison is comprised of funds from the following: “TIF one-year extension; general obligation bonds; operating budget; private cash contributions; proceeds from sale or use of surplus City land.”61

Tools to Finance Infrastructure development

Special Assessment and Special Assessment B Bonds

Wisconsin Statutes 66.0703 and specifically 66.0713 provides a means by which cities and villages can recover the costs of public improvements that benefit property owners through special assessments.  Special assessment can be used to pay for street construction, sidewalks, curb and gutter, storm and sanitary sewer, water mains, and many other public improvements.
This can be an excellent tool used in partnership with developers to finance the infrastructure needed for a housing development.  

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities (league) provides an excellent overview in “Special Assessments- A Common Way to Recover Costs of Public Improvements”.  Communities are encouraged to adopt special assessment policies to govern the types of improvements financed, how much and how the improvements will be assessed and in the case of improvements for unimproved development policies that manage risk.  The special assessment process is complex.  The League provides a number or resources to assist communities such as:

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) 

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a widely-used financing tool “that allows a municipality (town, village or city) to fund infrastructure and other eligible improvements, through property tax revenue of newly developed property.” Once development happens within a Tax Increment District (TID) and “as property values rise, the municipality uses the property tax paid on that development to pay for the projects. After the project costs are paid, the municipality closes the TID” and local jurisdictions “are able to levy taxes on the value of the new development.” TIF can help create a tax base that is larger for a community and other participating jurisdictions, and, in general, as “the tax base grows and spending is stable, tax rates go down, decreasing property taxes for everyone.62 State statutes include limitations on what types of project costs and residential development that can be financed with TIF revenues.

Consider implementing policies to require impact fees

As allowed under Wisconsin Statute 66.0617, municipalities can pass ordinances that enable impact fees to be charged to new development in a community, which can in turn be used help pay for needed public infrastructure and services that support housing. Examples of the kinds of public infrastructure for which impact fees can be used include roads, sewage and water treatment facilities, parks, playgrounds, fire stations, libraries, police stations, and others.70

WHEDA Infrastructure Access Loan for Developers

This competitive loan program allows a residential housing developer to apply for a loan to cover the costs of installing, replacing, upgrading, or improving public infrastructure related to workforce housing or senior housing. These costs are typically covered by the developer. Subordinate financing for developers for the installation, replacement, upgrade, or improvement of the infrastructure (streets, sidewalks, water lines, street lights, etc.) portion of a workforce housing development, per competitive process.

WHEDA Vacancy to Vitality Loan

This competitive loan program allows a developer to apply for a loan to help cover the cost of converting a vacant commercial building to workforce housing or senior housing.

Restore Main Street

This competitive loan program allows an owner of rental housing to apply for a loan to cover the costs to improve housing located on the second or third floors of an existing building with commercial space on the ground level.

Tax Increment Financing – Affordable Housing Extension

Wis. Stats. 66.1105(6)(g) added an Affordable Housing Extension (AHE) to Wisconsin’s TIF law in 2009, whereby municipalities may extend the life of their successful TIF districts by 1 year if the final increment is used for affordable housing. Specifically, “at least 75% of the final increment must benefit affordable housing in the municipality; (the) remaining portion must be used to improve housing in the municipality.” Additionally, a “resolution must specify how the municipality will improve the housing stock.” This tool is available for “any TID created under 66.1105, Wis. Stats.” but exclusions include a “Town TID created under 60.85, Wis. Stats” or an “Environmental Remediation TID with (the) municipal resolution adopted on or before 11/29/17 under 66.1106, Wis. Stats.” The resolution passed by the municipality must show that the “TID has paid all its (previous) project costs.”63 AHE-funded activities are not limited to the TIF district boundaries or the normal definitions of eligible project costs under State TIF law. Statutes do not further define “benefit to affordable housing”, providing the community significant flexibility. Municipalities have used AHE funds to finance revolving loan funds, install infrastructure, conduct housing studies, and incentivize rehabilitation and new construction.

The City of Amery, under Resolution #04-2019, utilized this one-year extension authority with TID No. 5. According to the Resolution, “the City of Amery is promoting affordable housing through selected neighborhood improvements and by making improvements to the existing housing stock in the City of Amery.” As discussed at the City of Amery Housing Forum, the City is still discussing how best to use these funds.

TIF AHE Example: In June 2019 the City of Plymouth, Wisconsin, adopted a resolution extending the life of one of their TIDs for an additional year. According to the City’s website, the planned extension will allow the City to receive the tax increment for one additional year in 2026. “The City intends to establish a $2.2 million housing revolving loan fund program similar to the existing business revolving loan fund program.”64 The program would assist homeowners with repair and improvement projects as well as private water and sewer lateral replacements, helping to revitalize older neighborhoods and housing stock within the City.

Employer-assisted housing

Under this model, employers help to finance the housing of their employees, or in some other way assist their employees to secure housing. In many cases, such assistance can take the form of helping employees to buy homes, which may be located close to the workplace. Other ways employers can assist is to provide rental assistance programs for their employees. According to the Centre Regional Planning Agency in State College, PA, employer-assisted housing has a double bottom line: “it helps working families secure affordable housing near their workplaces while helping employers find and keep qualified workers, improve community relations, and revitalize neighborhoods.” It can also help employees cut down on the travel costs associated with long commutes if housing is located in close proximity to the workplace.66 Home Sweet Menomonie, as previously discussed, is an example of one type of employer-assisted housing program.

There are three primary approaches to employer-assisted housing programs.

  • Employer financial contribution to an established or new Revolving Loan Fund that will provide housing assistance (i.e., downpayment or rental assistance) to employees. Under this scenario, the contributing businesses are commonly not the program administrator, though a new non-profit could be established if needed. The amount of funding contributed would be based on anticipated number of participating employees and the types/levels of assistance to be provided. Home Sweet Menomonie (see page 22 for more details) is a regional example of a program that provides loans for downpayment assistance to employees of those participating businesses.
  • Employer as developer and/or owner of housing for employees. Under this approach, an employer could act as a developer and construct housing for employees. According to the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund,67 Weerts Company in the town of Winnebago, Minnesota, has utilized this approach. “The town was experiencing household and job growth but lacked an adequate supply of affordable housing in the early 2000s. Employers were unable to attract and retain employees because they were unable to find housing in the community. One employer, Weerts Company, decided to develop new affordable rental housing in the community. A construction and landscaping company, Weerts invested
    $174,900 to produce eight 2- and 3-bedroom rental units for its employees and now owns and operates the project. The city also contributed to the project by waiving hook-up and permit fees for these units. The local utilities granted $8,500 toward the development cost and the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund participated with a $120,000, 0% interest deferred loan to the project.”68
  • Employer provides financial contribution directly to employees. Under this approach, an employer can give assistance directly to employees through downpayment assistance, closing cost assistance, mortgage guarantee, homebuyer education and counseling, rental assistance, and/or credit repair and counseling.

Neighborhood Stabilization Program

This program, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development and administered through the Wisconsin Department of Administration, provides emergency grants to state and local governments and other organizations to “acquire and redevelop foreclosed properties” that might otherwise be abandoned and create blight in a community.69

Credit enhancement

This financing tool consists of the backing of a loan or bond for an affordable housing project by a local government. This makes the investment more attractive to a bank or bond investor, therefore lowering the interest rate. The cost savings are then transferred back to the affordable housing developer.

Community Development Block Grant – Emergency Assistance Program (CDBG-EAP)

This program provides funding to “assist local units of government in addressing emergency housing, public facility, infrastructure, and business assistance needs that occur as a result of natural or manmade disasters. Such assistance may include, but is not limited to: housing rehabilitation, acquisition/demolition, housing replacement, road repairs, storm water drainage and public facilities.” If a local government is interested in applying for these funds, it must submit a notice that it intends to apply “within 90 days of the disaster event.” Funds must also be used “for the benefit of low-to-moderate income households/persons.”71 restrictions apply.78


Financial Resources for Homebuyers and Homeowners

Homebuyer Program – Regional & Local Community Development Block Grant Housing Programs

Homebuyer assistance is available through the Regional & Local CDBG Housing Programs. Funds can be provided as loans to income-eligible homebuyers with deferred payments and at no interest “for down payment and closing costs assistance.” Features of the program include that “down payment assistance is a dollar for dollar match; the home being purchased must be the applicant’s intended primary place of residence;” and completion of homebuyer education is required. The loans are repaid once “the owner no longer occupies the home.”79 Loans for essential home repairs are also available to income-eligible applicants.

Homebuyer & Rehabilitation Program (HHR)

Program of the HOME Investment Partnership administered through the State of Wisconsin Department of Administration. Provides direct assistance to eligible Low-and-Moderate Income (LMI) homebuyers for downpayment & closing costs, acquisition & rehabilitation, or new construction; or to make “essential improvements to single-family homes serving as the principal residence of LMI owners” (e.g. energy-related improvements, accessibility improvements, lead- based paint hazard reduction, repair of code violations).81

Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago – Downpayment Plus & Downpayment Advantage Programs

  • “Downpayment Plus is a matching program that provides down payment and closing cost assistance for income-eligible homebuyers. The assistance is provided in the form of a forgivable grant paid on behalf of the borrower at the time the borrower closes on mortgage financing with a participating FHLBank Chicago member financial institution. Grants are forgiven on a monthly basis over a five-year retention period.” The maximum grant amount is the lesser of: 1) $6,000; 2) three times the homebuyer's net contribution; or 3) 25% of the first mortgage amount.
  • “Downpayment Plus Advantage is a similar program but assists income-eligible homebuyers participating in homeownership programs offered by nonprofit organizations that provide mortgage financing directly to the homebuyer; it is not a matching program. Nonprofit organizations providing direct first-mortgage financing, such as Habitat for Humanity or Neighborhood Housing Services, must partner with an FHLBank Chicago member financial institution to access Downpayment Plus Advantage funds. Grants are forgiven on a monthly basis over a five-year retention period.” The maximum grant amount is $6,000. The borrower must also contribute at least $1,000 as part of the transaction.

“For Downpayment Plus, the member limit (i.e. for member banks) is $420,000 on a first- come, first-served basis as long as funds are available. For Downpayment Plus Advantage, there is no member limit.” “Program beneficiaries are required to complete both pre- purchase homebuyer education and counseling.”84

Associated Bank – Program for Assisting Today’s Homebuyer (PATH) Program

This grant program provides up to $4,000 in closing costs and downpayment assistance to prospective homebuyers. The program is available for “purchasing or building a primary residence in eligible counties.” The types of eligible residences include: “single-family detached homes; condominiums; townhouses; manufactured housing; one-to-four unit owner-occupied properties.” Income restrictions apply, and first-time homebuyers, as well as those who are not buying their first home, are eligible.85 One does not need to be a customer of Associated Bank to access the program.86 Other local financial institutions may have similar programs.

Veterans Affordable Loan Opportunity Rate (VALOR)

This program is “available on a first come, first served basis” and is targeted toward veterans “with an honorable discharge or release. Borrowers must qualify for a WHEDA Conventional Advantage Loan,” and the “first-time home buyer requirement is waived.” This loan product provides a “fixed- rate mortgage priced below the conventional WHEDA Advantage market rate.”

Rural Closing Cost Credit

WHEDA has a limited-time program for a “Closing cost credit up to $2,000, through the earlier of 225 eligible credits have been reserved and funded, or eligible loans closing on or before December 1, 2020. Requirements for the credit include:

  1. “Eligible loans must be secured by a property located within a Duty to Serve eligible rural county or rural census tract as determined by FHFA (Federal Housing Finance Agency)” (note: the entire County of Polk is identified as being eligible);
  2. “Must be used in combination with a WHEDA Advantage Conventional loan; and
  3. “Total Household Compliance Income must also meet the WHEDA Income Limits for the appropriate program.” ($67,800 in Polk County)

Wild Rivers Habitat for Humanity

Wild Rivers Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit housing organization that “is dedicated to eliminating substandard housing locally and worldwide through constructing, rehabilitating and preserving homes; by advocating for fair and just housing policies; and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter condition.”94 Previously Habitat has provided income-qualifying households the opportunity to purchase decent, affordable housing through a no- profit, no-interest mortgage. Along with other volunteers, the prospective homebuyer assists Habitat in physically building their own home. Given the costs exceeding what their intended new homeowners can afford to live in, Wild River Habitat is not focused on remodeling existing homes as opposed to new construction.

Other Innovative Ideas

The following are a few innovative ideas that have the potential to expand housing opportunities to a greater number of people in a community; to utilize housing as a way to improve a community’s quality of life; and to increase the involvement of local residents and workers in a community around the issue of housing.

Community Land Trust

A Community Land Trust is a community-based nonprofit organization that helps to promote affordable homeownership by separating the title to land from the building occupying the land. In Community Land Trusts, the trust owns the land and enters into a long-term lease with the owner (usually 99 years). If and when the homeowner sells, that homeowner realizes only a portion of any increase in the property’s value,
while the land trust retains the remaining share. In this way, the housing is kept affordable to future owners.128

Work with educational institutions to increase builder capacity

The availability of skilled builders and trades can impact housing supply and anecdotal evidence suggests there is a critical need for additional home builders, skilled laborers, and related specialty trades (e.g., electrical, plumbing). Explore opportunities to work with local schools, technical colleges, builder associations, etc., to promote interest in the building trades as well as the home types and styles desired by your market. This may also include working to increase builder interest in rehabilitation and “flipping homes” so that homes are “move-in ready” for young buyers. Such collaboration starts at the high school level where construction trade programs have largely decreased in recent decades. Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College reported that enrollment in its construction building trades program is currently at about half capacity, suggesting that post- secondary opportunities exist, but there is a lack of interested students.

Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force

The Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force released a set of recommendations in March 2019 related to meeting the need for housing in its region, some of which could stimulate ideas. Among the recommendations included:

  1. “Create and support services such as (a) tenant and landlord resource center, and (also) mediation services, which may improve housing stability for renters and mitigate risk for landlords, especially for households facing hardships”;
  2. “Explore (the) creation of a lenders consortium… to facilitate reinvestment in key neighborhoods, and improve housing stability for households”;
  3. “Collaborate with architects and builders to develop or adapt a suite of ‘spec’ building plans of various types (single-family, small multi-family, accessory dwelling) that feature superior design, environmental performance, and affordability for infill and new neighborhoods”; and
  4. “Create a sustained engagement and education campaign regarding the importance of affordable housing and the urgency of improving supply and quality to counter ‘NIMBY’ reactionism.”130

Work with partners to consider pilot projects or develop in phases

When resources and/or outcomes are uncertain, look for long-term partnership opportunities to use pilot projects or phased development/programming to minimize initial investment and fine-tune your longer-term strategy based on the results. Achieving a short-term “win” can also demonstrate success to potential funding sources and decision-makers, while building support and momentum.

Non-interest debt

Explore the potential to create and/or utilize alternative loan programs for populations that are unable to enter into traditional mortgage arrangements because they require the payment of interest. Some models include:

  1. Rent to Own This program would allow prospective homebuyers to accumulate a credit toward eventual payment on a home through the payment of rent for a certain number of years. However, rent-to-own programs can have pitfalls. For example, if a prospective homebuyer elected not to enter into an actual purchase at some point in the future, that homebuyer could forfeit any premium she or he may have paid in the past to secure the right to buy the home. In addition, there would be no reimbursement of “rent” previously paid. Some types of rent-to-own contracts are also not as consumer-friendly, in that they may legally obligate a person to buy the home at a future date, regardless of whether that person is ready to make the commitment to do so. While rent-to-own programs have the potential to provide a creative approach for those pursuing alternative homeownership opportunities, such programs should be carefully designed in order to provide the most benefit to the persons they are trying to assist.

Other Potential Partners

The following are additional potential partnership opportunities that your community can explore. Given the range of housing needs and challenges, collaboration among the private-, public-, and nonprofit sectors is critical to developing a comprehensive, effective housing strategy. This list is not comprehensive of all potential partners and does not repeat all of the various partner organizations mentioned in previous sections, such as employers, developers, WHEDA, Federal Home Loan Bank, and various state and federal grant programs.

Other County Partners


Other Regional Partners

West Central Wisconsin Regional Housing Consortium

This organization is responsible for the Regional Community Development Block Grant Housing Program, which is administered by the Chippewa County Housing Authority. The funds in this program are used to assist Low-to-Moderate Income homeowners through the provision of no-interest, deferred payment loans for home repairs or for closing costs and downpayments for homebuyers. The 2020 grant funds may also be used for housing acquisition, reconstruction and demolition. Repayment is made at the point that the homeowner no longer occupies the property. Although not currently used in this way, other eligible uses include small neighborhood public facility projects, assistance to developers creating low and moderate income rental units, and conversion of buildings into LMI housing.

The 2018 two-year grant for this program totaled $1.7 million, and as of October 2019, $1.1 million was available in the existing revolving loan fund. Funds for projects related to lead hazard remediation are provided as grants.

Impact Seven

Impact Seven is “one of the largest non-profit developers of affordable housing in Wisconsin,” and it is “the only state-wide Certified Housing Development Organization (CHDO)”… It manages more than 1,500 units, “most of which (it) own(s). Impact Seven has a long history of managing housing projects financed by Rural Development (a U.S. Department of Agriculture program) and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). (The organization) further specializes in the management of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) projects and market-rate housing.”135

West Central Wisconsin Community Action Agency, Inc. (West CAP)

Per its website, West CAP “partner(s) with private for-profit businesses and non-profit groups to plan, finance, and build good quality, affordable housing that is energy efficient and responds to local community needs. The West CAP housing program, HomeWorks, is also committed to providing long-term housing options that allow residents to build their personal assets through mutual or cooperative ownership.” The website goes on to say that, in terms of its development projects, West CAP “coordinates the land purchase, assembles the development team and partners, arranges financing, serves as the general contractor, and stays with the project as asset and property manager.” West CAP also provides programs in weatherization, homeless intervention (e.g. tenant-based rental assistance, supportive housing) and Housing Choice Vouchers.136

West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission

The West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (WCWRPC) is a regional planning agency serving Barron, Chippewa, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Polk, and St. Croix Counties. WCWRPC provides “technical assistance and advisory services on regional issues to the local governments and organizations within the region and often serve(s) as a coordinating agency for local programs and activities.” Among its services, WCWRPC offers “research, planning, and project administration support for housing.” This work includes “exploring safe and affordable housing options, coordinating meetings, collecting and analyzing housing data, and preparing grant applications.” 137

Other State Partners

Movin’ Out

According to its website, Movin’ Out “offer(s) information, advice, referrals, and resources for home ownership, home repair for safety and accessibility, or rental housing for households with low to moderate incomes.  [Movin’ Out] primarily serve(s) income-qualified households that include a person who has a permanent disability of any kind, whether intellectual, physical, or mental health. Movin’ Out also develops new multi-family housing with most units affordable for low to moderate income households,” of which 20-25% is reserved for people with disabilities “of any type.” The Home Repair Loan Program is only available in several counties in southern Wisconsin. The services provided by the organization include housing counseling and homebuyer education. This organization’s website discusses providing resources and services throughout Wisconsin, but it appears to be centered around Madison and Dane County.138Foundation for Rural Housing, Inc.

“The Foundation for Rural Housing, Inc. provides housing assistance funding in 69 counties in the State of Wisconsin.” Types of assistance include security deposit assistance, mortgage assistance, rental assistance, utility assistance and property tax assistance.139

WI Housing Search

This website ( provides a wide variety of information on housing resources, including listings of apartments that are available for rent (by county). It also provides opportunities for those who wish to rent a home to list those homes. In addition, it offers links to other resources including: homeless resources, resources for people with disabilities, employment, homeownership resources, landlord-tenant resources, public housing, shelter/transitional housing, social services, and others.140

Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development

The Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development provides a variety of housing-related services and resources including development consulting, as well as “technical assistance for the implementation of federal grants, management and design of housing finance and program management (e.g. local home buyer or rehab programs funded with federal dollars), creation of local partnerships, (and) guidance for first-time housing developers.” Its list of clients includes state and local government, as well as nonprofits with housing programs. The organization also develops its own single-family and multi-family projects, and its website points out that the Partnership provides “housing that other developers fail to provide, such as homes for people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities, as well as housing for older adults.” Most programs appear to be centered in southern Wisconsin, but the website suggests the organization is not limited to this area of the state.141Wisconsin Division of Intergovernmental Relations

As a part of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, this state agency provides services to “counties, municipalities, citizens, and businesses” in areas including “land use planning, land information and records modernization, municipal boundary review, plat review, demography, and coastal management programs. (The agency) also work(s) to strengthen the relationship between the State of Wisconsin and the governments of the state's 11 federally recognized Native American tribes.”142

Forward Community Investments

This organization works to provide “financing to nonprofits, cooperatives and, in rare circumstances, for-profit businesses for community-based, mission-focused projects addressing the root causes of racial disparities and socioeconomic inequities. (The organization’s) loans contribute to a stronger, more equitable Wisconsin by supporting high-impact projects and programs that expand affordable housing, economic development and human services.” Although based in Madison, the organization makes investments in other parts of Wisconsin.143

League of Wisconsin Municipalities

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities provides information on a vast array of housing resources throughout the State of Wisconsin at the following website: http://www.lwm-

  • More Housing Wisconsin Whitepaper Series
    • Housing Checklist for Municipalities
    • First Steps to Housing Solutions

Housing First

Housing First is a statewide plan to combat homelessness that is coordinated by the Wisconsin Interagency Council on Homelessness.145 According to “What Works for Health: Policies and Programs to Improve Wisconsin’s Health” from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, “Housing First programs address chronic homelessness by providing rapid access to permanent housing, without a pre-condition of treatment, along with ongoing support services such as crisis intervention, needs assessment, and case management. A form of permanent supportive housing, the program usually serves individuals who are chronically homeless and have persistent mental illness or problems with substance abuse and addiction.”146

Other Partnership Opportunities

Obtain Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) status

A nonprofit organization that develops housing can receive CHDO status from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development when applying for Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME) funds. The organization must submit an application to the Wisconsin Department of Administration to receive this designation. According to DOA, “(t)he CHDO designation may provide particular benefits to the organization as it develops and/or operates housing. An organization which is designated as a CHDO can potentially qualify for special project funds, operating funds and technical assistance support associated with a project funded under the State’s HOME Program, and may be eligible to retain project proceeds.” Certain organizational requirements must be adhered to when receiving CHDO status.147 Organizations that do work in western Wisconsin and that currently have CHDO status include Impact 7, West CAP, and Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council.

Create a new housing or development organization

Under Wisconsin law, local units of government have authority to create authorities or organizations that can address local housing issues. One such type of organization is a housing authority. According to Wisconsin Statutes 66.1201(9)(a), housing authorities have the power, among other powers, in their areas of operation “to prepare, carry out, acquire, lease and operate housing projects approved by the (common) council; to provide for the construction, reconstruction, improvement, alteration or repair of any housing project or any part of a housing project.”148 Other development authorities, organizations and tools may be established, as well, including:

  • Housing & Community Development Authority – also known as a “Community Development Authority,” this authority has “the purpose of carrying out blight elimination, slum clearance, urban renewal programs and projects and housing projects.” [Wisconsin Statute 66.1335(1)]149
  • Redevelopment Authorities – Among other powers, this authority can “prepare redevelopment plans and urban renewal plans and undertake and carry out redevelopment and urban renewal projects within the corporate limits of the city in which it functions.” [Wisconsin Statute 66.1333(5)(a)(1)]150
  • Redevelopment Corporations – Under Wisconsin law, these corporations carry out redevelopment plans according to Wisconsin Statutes 66.1301 to 66.1329, and Wisconsin Statutes 66.1301 defines redevelopment as “the clearance, replanning, reconstruction or rehabilitation of an area or part of an area, and the provision of industrial, commercial, residential or public structures or spaces as may be appropriate, including recreational and other facilities incidental or appurtenant to the structures or spaces.” [Wisconsin Statutes 66.1301(3)(s) and (r)]151
  • Neighborhood Improvement District – Wisconsin Statutes 66.1110 defines these districts as areas “within a municipality consisting of…parcels, at least some of which are used for residential purposes and are subject to general real estate taxes, and property that is acquired and owned by the (neighborhood improvement district) board… as part of its approval of the initial operating plan,” which guides the “development, redevelopment, maintenance, operation and promotion of a neighborhood improvement district.” [Wisconsin Statutes 66.1110(1)(e) & (f)]152
  • Reinvestment Neighborhoods – A portion of a municipality, designated by a municipality as a “reinvestment neighborhood” and “not less than one half of which, by area” meets three of five conditions, including that the area: 1) needs to be rehabilitated; 2) has substantially low homeownership; 3) has depressed housing market values or its market values increase at a substantially lower rate than the rest of the municipality; 4) has had a decrease in residents or the increase in residents is at a substantially lower rate than the rest of the municipality; 5) current conditions discourage private investment by lenders or property owners in the area’s housing. [Wisconsin Statute 66.1107(e)(1-5)]153

Investigate opportunities to establish housing cooperatives

Housing cooperatives are an alternative form of homeownership. According to the National Association of Housing Cooperatives, “(a) housing cooperative is formed when people join on a democratic basis to own or control the housing and/or related community facilities in which they live. Usually they form a not-for-profit cooperative corporation. Each month they pay a fee to cover their share of the operating expenses. Personal income tax deductions, lower turnover rates, lower real estate tax assessments (in some local areas), controlled maintenance costs, and resident participation and control are some of the benefits of choosing cooperative home ownership.” In a cooperative, the corporation actually owns the real estate, but members buy “shares or a membership” in the corporation. In addition, the members “have an exclusive right to live in a specific unit (this is established thorough an occupancy agreement or proprietary lease) for as long as (they) want, as long as (they) adhere to the cooperative’s rules and regulations.”154

Explore intergovernmental cooperation with adjacent communities

Housing markets and local economies do not stop at municipal boundaries. Reach out to neighboring communities to explore opportunities to leverage resources and develop solutions that benefit everyone. Cooperative boundary agreements provided for under Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 66 are a more formal tool for municipalities to proactively develop solutions to local growth and land use issues.


1 “Housing Discrimination Under the Fair Housing Act.” U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),, Accessed June 17, 2019.

2 “Wisconsin’s Fair Housing Law & Complaint Process.” State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Accessed June 17, 2019.

3 “Act Memo – 2017 Wisconsin Act 243 [2017 Assembly Bill 770] – Housing and Local Regulation of Property Development.” Wisconsin Legislative Council, 10 May 2018, Accessed June 17, 2019.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

11 “Inclusionary Zoning Prohibited.” Wisconsin Statutes 66.1015(3), Accessed May 31, 2019.

12 “Act Memo – 2017 Wisconsin Act 243 [2017 Assembly Bill 770] – Housing and Local Regulation of Property Development.” Wisconsin Legislative Council, 10 May 2018, Accessed June 17, 2019.

13 “Act Memo – 2017 Wisconsin Act 317 [2017 Assembly Bill 771] – Rental Housing, Landlord-Tenant Law, Court Records, and Local Government Authority.” Wisconsin Legislative Council, 23 April 2018, Accessed June 24, 2019.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid.

16 “Act Memo – 2017 Wisconsin Act 317 [2017 Assembly Bill 771] – Rental Housing, Landlord-Tenant Law, Court Records, and Local Government Authority.” Wisconsin Legislative Council, 23 April 2018, Accessed June 24, 2019.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid.

23 “2019 Guide for Property Owners.” Wisconsin Department of Revenue, p. 4, 2019, Accessed June 17, 2019.

24 Kreye, Joe. “The Uniformity Clause.” Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, p. 6, October 2016, Accessed June 17, 2019.

25 Division of Research and Policy. “Property Tax Overview.” Wisconsin Department of Revenue, 07 November 2018, Accessed June 17, 2019.

26 “Comprehensive Planning.” State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Accessed May 2, 2019.

27 “Pedestrian Friendly Code Directory: Medium to Narrow Road Widths.” ChangeLab Solutions, 2019, Accessed April 10, 2019.

28 “LID Element #9: Require Sidewalks on Only One Side of the Street.” City of Olympia and SCJ Alliance, Accessed April 10, 2019.

29 “Aging in Place: Growing Old at Home.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: National Institute on Aging, 01 May 2017, Accessed May 31, 2019.

30 Aging & Disability Resource Center of Northwest Wisconsin Accessed January 8, 2020.

31 “Infill Development.” MRSC, 2019,
development-completing-the-community-fabric.aspx. Accessed June 3, 2019.

32 “Housing Issues – Lot Size Averaging.” resources/lot_size_averaging.pdf?sfvrsn=4. Accessed April 9, 2019.

33 “Draft Summary Recommendations.” Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force, 12 March 2019.

34 “Myths and Facts About Affordable and Higher Density Housing.” California Planning Roundtable, California Department of Housing & Community Development, 2002, acceptance/index/docs/mythsnfacts.pdf. Accessed June 3, 2019.

35 “Draft Summary Recommendations.” Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force, 12 March 2019.

36 “Planning Implementation Tools – Density Bonus.” Center for Land Use Education – University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, November 2005, Accessed April 11, 2019.

37 “Form-Based Codes Defined.” Form-Based Codes Institute, 2019, Accessed June 3, 2019.

38 “Transfer of Development Rights.” Local housing Solutions – National Community of Practice on Local Housing Policy, 2019, development-rights/#anchor-13a. Accessed June 24, 2019.

39 “Expedited Permitting for Qualifying Projects Overview.” Local housing Solutions – National Community of Practice on Local Housing Policy, 2019,
Accessed April 11, 2019.

40 “Draft Summary Recommendations.” Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force, 12 March 2019.

41 Joyner, Jeffrey. “What is a Live-Work Unit?”, Accessed April 10, 2019.

42 “What is the Tiny House Movement?” The Tiny Life, 2018, Accessed April 10, 2019.

43 “Accessory Dwelling Units.” American Planning Association, 2019, Accessed April 9, 2019.

44 “Missing middle housing: Responding to demand for urban living.” Parole, Dan. Better! Cities & Towns.
_Better_Cities_%2B_Towns.pdf. Accessed September 3, 2019.

45 “Traditional Neighborhood Development.” National League of Cities, March 7, 2017, neighborhood-development. Accessed April 11, 2019.

46 “Municipal Corner – Planning Toolbox - Traditional Neighborhood Development.” Chester County Planning Commission (Chester County, PA), http:/ Accessed April 11, 2019.

47 Ohm, Brian; LaGros, James and Strawser, Chuck. “A Model Ordinance for a Traditional Neighborhood Development”.
April 2001, Accessed September 17, 2019.

48 “Planning Implementation Tools – Conservation Design.” Center for Land Use Education – University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, April 2006, Accessed April 10, 2019.

49 “What is Cohousing?” The Cohousing Association, 2017, Accessed April 10, 2019.

50 “Draft Summary Recommendations.” Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force, 12 March 2019.

51 “Community Living Arrangements.” Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 29 December 2016, Accessed April 10, 2019.

52 “Notice prior to conversion of residential property to condominium.” Wisconsin Statutes 703.08, Accessed June 18, 2019.

53 Ibid.

54 Gordon, Lisa. “Building, Buying or Beefing Up a Home? Watch Out for Annoying Deed Restrictions.”, 01 March 2017, Accessed June 11, 2019.

55 “Housing Cost Reduction Initiative Program (HCRI).” State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Accessed April 12, 2019.

56 ‘Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program in Wisconsin - Program 101.” United States Department of Agriculture – Rural Development, Accessed May 28, 2019.

57 “Rental Housing Development (RHD).” State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Accessed April 12, 2019.

58 “Home Sweet Menomonie.” The City of Menomonie, Accessed May 29, 2019.

59 City of Menomonie; Community Foundation of Dunn County; Greater Menomonie Development Corporation; Local Businesses.
“Home Sweet Menomonie: A New Down Payment Assistance Program” brochure, 2019.

60 “Live it Up Wausau.” Wausau Community & Economic Development, 2019, Accessed May 29, 2019.

61 MSA Professional Services & Urban Assets. “Fitchburg Housing Plan: Goals, Strategies and Implementation Toolkit.” The City of Fitchburg, 12 February 2019, Accessed May 29, 2019.

62 “2019 Tax Incremental Financing Manual.” Wisconsin Department of Revenue, 2019, Accessed May 20, 2019.

63 “Tax Increment Finance (TIF) – Extensions.” State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue, Accessed May 20, 2019.

64 City of Plymouth Intends to Extend TID #4 for Affordable Housing Initiative. City of Plymouth. Accessed January 8, 2020.

65 “Housing Preservation Grants in Wisconsin – Program 101.” United State Department of Agriculture – Rural Development, Accessed June 3, 2019.

66 “Employer Assisted Housing.” Centre Regional Planning Agency, B8E1-BAC6A6336348%7D/uploads/EmployerAssistedHousing.pdf. Accessed May 20, 2019.

67 “Employer Assisted Housing Resource Guide.” Greater Minnesota Housing Fund. content/uploads/2016/08/gmhf-employer-assisted-housing-handbook.pdf. Accessed September 3, 2019.

68 Ibid.

69 “Neighborhood Stabilization Program Data.” HUD User Office of Policy Development and Research. Accessed April 17, 2019.

70 “Impact Fees.” Wisconsin Statutes 66.0617, Accessed June 18, 2019.

71 “Community Development Block Grant Program – Emergency Assistance Program (CDBG-EAP).” State of Wisconsin Department of Administration,
.aspx. Accessed June 24, 2019.

72 “Multi-Family Housing Loan Guarantees in Wisconsin – Program 101.” United States Department of Agriculture – Rural Development, Accessed May 6, 2019.

73 “National Housing Trust Fund.” WHEDA, 2019, Accessed May 7. 2019.

74 “Housing Tax Credits.” WHEDA, 2019, Accessed May 6, 2019.

75 “Qualified Allocation Plan 2019-20 for the State of Wisconsin.” WHEDA – Low Income Housing Tax Credit, Accessed May 6, 2019.

76 “Financing.” WHEDA, 2019, Accessed May 15, 2019.

77 “Competitive Affordable Housing Program (AHP).” Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, investment/competitive-affordable-housing-program-ahp. Accessed May 7, 2019.

78 “Community Advances.” Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, advances. Accessed May 28, 2019.

79 “Home Repair and Homebuyer Programs.” Chippewa County Housing Authority,
_all_counties_brochure.pdf. Accessed May 28, 2019.

80 “Single Family Housing Direct Homes Loans in Wisconsin – Program 101.” United States Department of Agriculture – Rural Development, Accessed May 28, 2019.

81 “HOME Homebuyer and Rehabilitation Program (HHR).” State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Accessed April, 12 2019.

82 Ferguson, Paul. “Property Tax Deferral Program.” Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, January 2015, nal_paper_23.pdf. Accessed June 5, 2019.

83 Telephone conversation with WHEDA representative, June 12, 2019.

84 “Downpayment Plus Program.” Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, plus-programs. Accessed May 28, 2019.

85 “Program for Assisting Today’s Homebuyer (PATH).” Associated Bank, LOAN-OFFICERS.pdf. Accessed May 28, 2019.

86 Telephone conversation with Associated Bank representative, June 12, 2019.

87 “Available Mortgage Programs.” WHEDA, 2019, Accessed May 17, 2019.

88 “WHEDA announces HomeStyle Renovation.” WHEDA, 2019, Accessed April 17, 2019.

89 Ibid.

90 Ibid.

91 “WHEDA Refi Advantage Loan Program.” WHEDA. 2019, Accessed May 6, 2019.

92 “Foreclosure Prevention.” WHEDA, 2019, Accessed June 24, 2019.

93 Seelen, Christopher M. “The Wisconsin Homestead Exemption.” Ruder Ware: Ag-Visor Blog, 25 September 2018, Accessed May 31 2019.

94 “About Wild Rivers Habitat for Humanity.” Wild Rivers Habitat for Humanity,
Accessed October 3, 2019.

95 “Housing Assistance Program.” Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 02 January 2018, Accessed May 28, 2019.

96 Ibid.

97 “Voucher Administration.” WHEDA, 2019, Accessed May 28, 2019.

98 “Housing Assistance Program.” Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 02 January 2018, Accessed May

99 “Voucher Administration.” WHEDA, 2019, Accessed May 28, 2019.

100 “Housing Assistance Program.” Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 02 January 2018, Accessed May 28, 2019.

101 Ibid.

102 “Homestead Credit Definitions.” State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue, 28 December 2018, Accessed May 31, 2019.

103 “Home Repair.” Chippewa County, 2019, Accessed May 7, 2019.

104 “Home Improvement Loan Advantage Program.” WHEDA, 2019, Accessed April 17, 2019.

105 “Single Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants – Program 101.” United States Department of Agriculture – Rural Development, Accessed June 5, 2019.

106 “Tomorrow’s Home Foundation.” Accessed January 8, 2020.

107 “Wisconsin Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).”, Accessed April 17, 2019.

108 “Wisconsin’s Weatherization Assistance Program.” Home Energy Plus, 01 October 2018, Accessed June 12, 2019.

109 “Home Energy+”. Accessed January 8, 2020.

110 “Wisconsin Energy Assistance.” Xcel Energy, 2019, Accessed June 12, 2019.

111 “Using the Historic Tax Credit for Affordable Housing.” HUD Exchange, 2019, Accessed June 5, 2019.

112 “Historic Preservation Tax Credit.” Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, 2019, resources/historic-preservation-tax-credit/. Accessed June 5, 2019.

113 “Tax Credits for Historic Homes.” Wisconsin Historical Society, 1996-2019, Accessed June 5, 2019.

114 “Supportive Housing.” United State Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), Accessed June 19, 2019.

115 “Farm Labor Housing Direct Loans & Grants in Wisconsin - Program 101.” United States Department of Agriculture – Rural Development, Accessed May 28, 2019.

116 “Housing Grant Program.” WHEDA, 2019, Accessed May 20, 2019.

117 “Critical Assistance Program.” State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Accessed May 15, 2019.

118 “Section 811.” WHEDA, 2019. Accessed May 28, 2019.

119 “Homeless Case Management Services Grants Program.” State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Accessed May 15, 2019.

120 “Emergency Solutions Grant, Housing Assistance Program, Homelessness Prevention Program EHH.” State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Homelessness-Prevention-Program-ETH.aspx. Accessed May 15, 2019.

121 “Tenant Based Rental Assistance Program.” State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Accessed May 15, 2019.

122 “Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS.” State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Accessed May 15, 2019.

123 “Project for Assistance in the Transition from Homelessness (PATH).” State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Accessed May 15, 2019.

124 “Who we are, and what we do.” Institute for Community Alliances, 2019, Accessed May 16, 2019.

125 “Employment Grants Program.” State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Accessed May 16, 2019.

126 “Family Care.” Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 28 March 2019, Accessed May 15, 2019.

127 “State Shelter Subsidy Grant Program.” State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Accessed May 16, 2019.

128 “Community Land Trusts (CLTs).” Accessed May 20, 2019.

129 “Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD).” National Housing Law Project, 07 September 2017, Accessed May 20, 2019.

130 “Draft Summary Recommendations.” Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force, 12 March 2019.

131 “Purpose Statement”. Polk County Economic Development Corporation, Accessed October 3, 2019.

132 “About Wild Rivers Habitat for Humanity.” Wild Rivers Habitat for Humanity,
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133 Aging & Disability Resource Center of Northwest Wisconsin. Accessed January 8, 2020.

134 Aging & Disability Resource Center of Northwest Wisconsin. Accessed January 8, 2020.

135 “Our Mission.” Impact Seven, 2019, Accessed April 11, 2019.

136 “Services.” West Central Wisconsin Community Action Agency, Inc., Accessed June 3, 2019.

137 “West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.” West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, Accessed April 12, 2019.

138 “Housing Solutions for People and Families with Disabilities.” Movin’ Out, 2019, Accessed June 3, 2019.

139 “Qualifications for Assistance” and “Our Programs.” Foundation for Rural Housing, Inc., 2019, Accessed April 11, 2019.

140 WI Housing Search, 2019, Accessed June 3, 2019.

141 “What We Do.” Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development, Accessed June 3, 2019.

142 “Division of Intergovernmental Relations.” State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Accessed June 5, 2019.

143 “What We Do: Lending.” Forward Community Investments, Accessed June 3, 2019.

144 “Housing.” League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Accessed June 3, 2019.

145 Mosiman, Dean. “State Council’s first plan to combat homelessness stress Housing First, case management.” Wisconsin State
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147 “Community Housing Development Organizations (CHDO).” Wisconsin Department of Administration, Accessed June 20, 2019.

148 “Housing Authorities.” Wisconsin Statutes 66.1201(9)(a), Accessed June 19, 2019.

149 “Housing and Community Development Authorities.” Wisconsin Statutes 66.1335(1), Accessed June 19, 2019.

150 “Blight Elimination and Slum Clearance.” Wisconsin Statutes 66.1333(5)(a)(1), Accessed June 19, 2019.

151 “Urban Redevelopment.” Wisconsin Statutes 66.1301(s) & (r), Accessed June 19, 2019.

152 “Neighborhood Improvement Districts.” Wisconsin Statutes 66.1110(1)(e) & (f), Accessed June 19, 2019.

153 “Reinvestment Neighborhoods.” Wisconsin Statutes 66.1107(e)(1-5),
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154 “Buying Into a Housing Cooperative.” National Association of Housing Cooperatives, 2019, Accessed June 3, 2019.