In a close vote Thursday night, La Crosse City Council voted against buying commercial property to convert into affordable housing.
The property is located on the north side of La Crosse on Monitor Street and is believed to have been purchased with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) housing funds. The plan was to add 30 affordable units, meaning residents would pay no more than 30% of their income for rent.
“I think we have a critical need for all types of housing in the city, affordable housing of all kinds,” said council member Jennifer Trost, who voted in favor of the purchase Thursday night as well as during three other committee meetings.
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Seven members voted against the purchase of the property and six members voted in favor of the purchase. Those who voted against were Andrea Richmond (District 1), Scott Neumeister (District 2), Larry Sleznikow (District 4), Jenasea Hameister (District 5), Chris Kahlow (District 6), Chris Woodard (District 9) and Mark Neumann (District 13).
“The reason I voted against buying the property was number one, price and number two, I don’t think we should extinguish all of our ARPA funds just yet,” Woodard said. “We have until 2026 to use them. Who knows what will happen to the town of La Crosse? »
Woodard said he would support a developer buying the Monitor Street property for apartments, but was not comfortable with the city buying.
The plan was for the city to purchase the property and prepare the land for a developer. The only cost the city would have incurred for the project was the purchase of the property.
“It’s the government coming in and promoting housing in a way that the free market doesn’t always do,” Trost said. “There are all kinds of examples of this type of process. So I see it as one more in a long line of projects like this.
Many housing projects the city has undertaken have gone this way. Current projects that have followed this model include the River Point District project and the housing project on Fourth and Jackson Street in the Woodard District.
“I think if we were to bring other [housing] project at the same time, we could shoot ourselves in the foot,” Woodard said.
City staff regularly search for properties in La Crosse that the City could purchase in order to fulfill one of council’s missions to provide more housing.
“If this project did not meet [council members] criteria, what kinds of projects would be,” Trost said. “I think council members who weren’t comfortable with this could help the city staff be better led.”
The purchase price for the property is listed at $2,295,000.
The property located at 811 Monitor Street is currently zoned for the Industrial Lighting District. Earlier in the meeting, council voted to rezone the property in the multi-unit district to be suitable for housing. However, the rezoning was conditional on the purchase of the property.
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