Builders to City of Onalaska: Where Can We Build? IDs Barriers to Affordable Housing

Builders Group Discusses Land Availability, Affordable Housing, and Privacy Fences with City of Onalaska

 

"Where can we build single-family homes?"

was a question asked of Onalaska Mayor Kim Smith and Assistant City Planner Erin Duffer by the Government Affairs Committee of the La Crosse Area Builders Association.

Answer: The City considers itself fully developed and is working on infill housing (redeveloping existing areas that typically includes remodeling or demolishing existing buildings for redevelopment). The builders and subcontractors encouraged the City to think outside the box when doing infill projects.

Onalaska Developments in the Works

  • Traditional Trades is working on a large apartment complex on Sand Lake Road & Hwy S that will “somewhat mirror” what is on the other side of the street and include more common areas
  • Mayo still owns the land by Menards. This is considered a “legacy project” that will not be hospital related.
  • There is land across Hwy 16 from the landfill that is slated for development.

Privacy Screens Ordinance Created Under Accessory Structures

Stating they are seeing people installing privacy screens on residential properties, the City of Onalaska revised its accessory structure ordinance to state the fences over 8' in height require an accessory building permit and that the height would be limited to under 20-feet. The builders group said these are very rare and did not see a problem with the ordinance.

“If you’re looking at a project and thinking about it, come and talk to our staff,” said Onalaska Mayor Kim Smith. “We have people on staff that are familiar with the rules that have to be followed. If we can have those conversations on the front end before you have time and money invested, we can help you find the workaround -- especially if it’s unconventional, we can be included at the start.”

Onalaska Mayor Kim Smith, “We’re seeing larger apartment buildings going in, and they’re not having any problem filling them. We’re hearing the desire for larger apartments with more bedrooms and larger spaces, so that does seem to be a trend in housing.”

Barriers to Affordable Housing

The group discussed affordable housing with the City of Onalaska that include labor shortages, increased regulation, and material shortages that are increasing costs.

Salvaging Materials to Save the Landfill

When asked about repurposing materials, the builders group said that the cost of the labor to remove, improve, and reinstall the salvaged items makes the cost so much higher that homeowner chooses to buy a new item, for example a mantle. Using repurposed home items, such as a mantle, is predominantly seen in high-end homes due to the higher costs.

Vicki Markussen
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Author: Vicki Markussen

CEO/Founder, Engage Greater La Crosse

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