A HUD National Award Winning Program!
Replacement Housing Program History
The Replacement Housing Program was started as a response to conspicuous demographic changes that became evident after the 1990 Census data was evaluated. From 1980 to 1990, homeownership dropped from approximately 54% to 46% and approximately 50% of the city's housing was constructed prior to 1950. Much of the older housing stock was modest at its inception and has suffered neglect as housing trends changed. Loose zoning regulations, lack of open land for housing development and expansion of institutional entities contributed to the change of the residential character of older neighborhoods.
Need for neighborhood stabilization was a driving force. Deteriorating housing and an increase in poor quality rental housing has been acting as a deterrent to reinvestment in owner occupied housing. Dramatic increases in student enrollments in the 70's and 80's significantly impacted the housing market. The Replacement Housing Program creates new, owner occupied, single family dwellings in a manner that is consistent with period architecture and is still affordable. No one expects the program to rebuild entire neighborhoods. It is designed to eliminate the worst housing and improve the environment so others will reinvest in decent housing.
In 1996, the La Crosse Common Council approved CDBG funding for the program for site acquisition and clearance. In following years, CDBG and HOME Investment Partnership Program funds were dedicated for additional acquisitions and site development. Since the inception, $425,000 of CDBG funds has been budgeted for acquisition and clearance. $651,000 of HOME funds has been budgeted for site development. Funds returned to the City at sale of properties developed through the program are dedicated to the continuation of the program. The program absorbs demolition and development costs that exceed market value of the homes. The Program attempts to cash out off the deals at sale to recycle money for new developments. To make the homes affordable, the city may take second mortgages that are deferred until the next sale. The homes are sold at market value in order to maintain market values of surrounding homes.
Low interest mortgage money from WHEDA contributes significantly to the affordability of the homes, while enabling the city to maintain the market value of the neighborhoods. In 1998, WHEDA contributed four mortgages at a 4% interest rate. In 2001, WHEDA has pledged $400,000 at 5.5% interest. Discounted mortgage rates make the projects more affordable for income eligible households while enabling the properties to sell at market value.
The City of La Crosse has awarded $855,000 of HOME funds over seven years to the Community Action Program to operate a Homebuyer Assistance Program. Purchasers of Replacement Housing Program sites participate in this program, too.
Donated labor and material from numerous sources fill out the picture. Various City of La Crosse departments contribute man hours, equipment, time, and some materials to help keep project costs down. The City of La Crosse and Western Wisconsin Technical College work together to use job sites as field training for the students involved in the Wood Technologies course. WTC contribution is used to satisfy the HOME Program's matching funds requirement as well as reducing development costs.
While the program can operate city-wide, most activity has occurred in the Hamilton School/Hood Park area. In total, 11 parcels have been purchased city-wide. Six homes have been completed and two are under construction. Three more homes will be started this summer on sites that were purchased in January of 2001.
Replacement Housing Program activity has been conspicuous on the 900 block of Tyler Street. Four parcels of property, involving six houses, were acquired. Three houses had condemnation orders and the other three were clearly substandard. Because of small lot sizes, lots were joined, and four homes will result.
To qualify for purchase of the home, purchaser must have an income below 80% of Median Family Income and be able to secure mortgage money. The purchaser must also participate in the Community Action Program Homebuyer Assistance Program, which provides housing counseling and down payment assistance.
Best of the Best
In August of 2000, the Department of Housing and Urban Development presented the City of La Crosse Replacement Housing Program with the "Best of the Best" award at the Annual Best Practices Award Ceremony. Only the top 100 nominations of the over 3000 national submissions were so awarded. The program was recognized not so much for building homes as for how the community worked together to address a need.
The cooperative participation of many partners makes the program feasible, and HUD honored the program because of that collaborative nature. Each of the partners plays a critical role, as follows: