January 23, 2008

 

Committee Hears Testimony on Low-Income Housing Bill

MADISON – Tuesday at the Capitol, the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Corrections, and Housing held a public hearing on Senate Bill (SB) 403.  Known as the LITE-House Act, SB 403 redefines Wisconsin’s Rent-Use Requirement for property tax exemptions.  The bill’s Senate author, Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), offered testimony at the hearing in support of it.

“The recent problems in the housing market have hit economically disadvantaged families especially hard,” Taylor noted. “Government needs to encourage organizations to get involved in providing quality, low-income housing.  By refining the Rent-Use requirement, this bill achieves that goal.”

Under the Rent-Use Requirement, property leased for low-income housing only qualifies for the state property tax exemption if, among other things, rental income from the property is used exclusively to either maintain the property or pay off expenses directly related to the property.  SB 403 clarifies and expands the activities—like payment of insurance premiums and utility bills, and provision of social services at the project—that conform to the Rent Use Requirement.  The bill also allows operators of low-income housing to spend rental income from one of their low-income projects on another low-income project.

“These groups are out there doing God’s work,” said Taylor, “and we ought to give them a helping hand.  By ensuring that reasonable, property-related expenditures are definitely covered by the Rent-Use Requirement, we make it possible for religious and benevolent organizations to confidently operate low-income housing.  Anything that facilitates investment in low-income housing right now is a good thing for our communities.”

SB 403 applies only to low-income housing.  It does not affect the property tax exemption status of any other forms of property use.  The bill’s narrow scope was a key factor in marshalling the support of over 80 public and private organizations. 

“The LITE-House Act is a proactive step to absolutely ensure that providers of low-income remain exempt from property taxes,” Taylor pointed out. “In no way does it affect other types of housing.  It’s important that people recognize this bill as having a very limited scope.”

SB 403 is a refinement of a provision of the omnibus budget motion approved by the Joint Finance Committee on a 16-0 vote.  It was developed after extensive negotiations involving the Wisconsin Housing Preservation Corporation and local government interests.