The Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance

 Nathan Conrad, WRA Director of Political Advocacy  |    November 01, 2023

A chill is in the air, November is in full swing, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. As 2023 comes to an end, we have much to be thankful for, and given the ability to be retrospective, we are also given a chance to look back at some of the recent advocacy successes we have had on a grassroots level with our partners at the Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance (WHA).

As REALTORS®, we have a unique opportunity to work together with our partners to help protect property rights and encourage homeownership.

One of the most effective ways to enact meaningful policy results at the local, state and national level with our elected officials is for constituents to speak to lawmakers about the issues that matter most to a community.

Read on to learn a few examples of the WHA’s grassroots actions at work.

Did you know the WHA helped repair 140 years of riparian rights in 2021?

A simple family dispute turned into a 2018 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that took away the right to place a pier for waterfront property owners on man-made flowages throughout Wisconsin. The WHA, alongside efforts of the WRA’s advocacy team, leaped at the chance to help right this wrong and reinstate 140 years of riparian rights to waterfront property owners statewide. 

In 2021, the Wisconsin Legislature heard from thousands of residents statewide due to a campaign run by the WHA. A robust radio effort paired with a targeted mail and digital contact program targeted at legislators in districts with hundreds of waterfront property owners resulted in thousands of letters and calls into legislators’ offices asking their support of a bill that would repair these riparian rights that had been taken away by the Supreme Court decision. 

The efforts worked well, and the bill passed both houses of the legislature and was signed into law.

The direct communications from constituents to their elected officials in this case made an impact that helped restore and codify property rights in Wisconsin. 

Were you aware of the WHA’s involvement in ending the act of “chasing sales” in property assessments in Wisconsin?

“Chasing sales,” or basing the assessed value of a property solely on the last sale price of that property, is not just lazy — it is wrong. However, many communities in Wisconsin were doing just that before the WHA, and the grassroots activist members of the organization stepped in to voice their concerns.

Wisconsin’s constitution requires that all property tax assessments be assessed uniformly. The uniformity clause was inserted in the state constitution in the 1800s to prevent lawmakers at the state and local levels from giving preferential treatment to some property owners over others.

To ensure property assessments are accurate and fair, state law requires municipalities to maintain the assessed value of each major class of property within 10% of fair market value once every five years.

Although the Department of Revenue prohibits the practice of chasing sales, assessors regularly increase the assessed value of property based on a recent sale. In a sampling of 24 communities around the state in 2014, an analysis by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that at least 5% of the new assessments were identical to a property’s selling price. 

In 2019, a targeted mail and digital grassroots campaign by the WHA worked nonstop for nearly six months contacting legislators’ offices thousands of times to make it known that this unfair tactic on property value assessment must be stopped. The outreach was an outright success with unanimous support for the measure in both houses of the legislature.

These are two recent examples of WHA campaigns that helped right a wrong against owners of property and further secured our property rights.

If you know of a situation that has put homeownership out of reach or threatened property rights in your community, please reach out to the WRA, and we can work with our partners at the WHA to find a way to activate the grassroots activists and help protect property rights.

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