The WRA’s List of 2023-24 Legislative Priorities

 Tom Larson, WRA executive vice president  |    January 09, 2023

In early February, the WRA board of directors will review and approve the legislative priorities for the 2023-24 legislative session. The list of legislative priorities consists of approximately 25 different policy initiatives grouped into seven different themes aimed at addressing various issues affecting the real estate industry, including housing inventory, housing affordability, income and property taxes, economic development, protecting property rights, and streamlining the real estate transaction.  

The creation of the WRA’s legislative priorities is a comprehensive process that involves input from a wide variety of sources, including individual REALTORS®, local association staff, WRA Public Policy Committee members and others. The priorities are identified based on problematic regulations at the local level, regulatory trends from other states, calls to the WRA Legal Hotline about transactional matters, and court cases involving important real estate issues.

The WRA’s lobbying team will begin to implement the agenda by working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to introduce and pass legislation though the various stages of the legislative process. REALTOR® members will be asked to actively participate in this process by attending REALTOR® & Government Day on April 26, 2023, in Madison and by responding to legislative calls to action.   

The following are some of the legislative priorities the WRA will be working on during the 2023-24 legislative session. 

Increase Wisconsin’s housing inventory by establishing policies and processes offering opportunities for developers, municipalities and employers

Lower costs related to the development of workforce housing

  • Improve certainty and predictability in the development process by two methods:
    • Judicial remedy: Allow a developer to appeal to a circuit court a local unit of government’s denial of a development proposal that complies with local zoning and authorize a judge to approve the project.
    • Development by right: Require local governments to approve development proposals that are consistent with local zoning and building codes
  • Prevent lawsuits challenging approvals: Prohibit or limit challenges to zoning or project approvals, or limit the scope of who has standing to bring a lawsuit. 
  • Prohibit supermajority requirements for zoning changes: Prohibit the requirement of a supermajority vote for zoning changes

Provide incentives to increase the supply of workforce housing

  • Provide tax credits to encourage the development of workforce housing: Expand existing tax credit programs, such as the low-income housing tax credit, to promote the development of workforce housing
  • Shovel-ready workforce housing sites: Create a voluntary program to promote residential development sites that have all the necessary federal, state and local approvals and the necessary public utilities and infrastructure improvements necessary for development.

Develop new financing tools to lower infrastructure costs related to workforce housing 

  • Modify tax increment financing (TIF) law: Modify existing TIF law to provide local governments with greater flexibility to use TIF for workforce housing.  
  • Community development districts: Provide Wisconsin municipalities the additional infrastructure financing tool of community development districts (CDD). CDDs offer a voluntary solution to help municipalities address long-term community needs, allowing municipalities to compete with municipalities in other states for jobs and economic development opportunities.  
  • Residential development infrastructure loan program: Create a loan program at the state level to fund infrastructure initiatives for streets, water, sewers and sidewalks, for example, for residential developments.

Improve Wisconsin’s tax climate and reform tax assessment practices to grow Wisconsin’s economy

  • Income taxes: Significantly reduce the state income tax.
  • Local government funding: Reduce the reliance on property taxes as the sole source of funding for local governments by finding alternative ways to fund these essential services and by creating targeted relief from levy limits
  • Personal property tax: Eliminate personal property taxes to reduce the tax burden on Wisconsin business owners.

Encourage economic development by eliminating regulatory hurdles

  • Filled lands: Resolve issues regarding historically filled lake beds and riverways so that redevelopment can occur by disallowing certain legal claims to be made by third parties without standing
  • Planned development districts: Allow for greater flexibility of uses allowed within planned development districts.

Reduce the risk for real estate licensees and consumers to avoid liability in practice and the real estate transaction

  • Compliance for license limitations: Clarify firms are not responsible for compliance or monitoring of license limitations for licensees associated with the firm unless the firm agrees. 
  • Notification of supervising broker: Require the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services and the Real Estate Examining Board to notify the supervising broker of all complaints, orders, limitations, suspensions and revocations, including non-renewal of licenses.
  • Safe harbors: Create safe harbors for licensees for use of government information with attribution.
  • Payment of referral fees/commission to former licensees: Clarify payment of referral fees or commission can be made if the individual was licensed when the commission was earned or when the referral fee arrangement was made. 

Modernize the licensing system and underscore the value of competent real estate practice 

  • Fines and forfeitures: Increase fines and forfeitures for violations and also create a sliding scale from least to greatest severity for violationS.
  • Wholesalers: Require wholesaler buyers and sellers to provide written disclosure of purchase or sale of a property.  

Protect property rights by decreasing unnecessary regulation and removing obsolete procedures 

  • Intestate property protection: Protect heirs who acquire real estate from an heir who dies intestate as tenant-in-common under the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA).

Increase homeownership rates by removing barriers 

  • Discriminatory covenants: Reiterate Wisconsin law prohibits discriminatory restrictive covenants and allow property owners to record a form to discharge the restriction from title.

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