Tuesday, January 16, 2024



City of La Crosse to Reconsider Allowing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

Public Meetings on January 17 and 18

The City of La Crosse Common Council referred legislation for 60 days to gather additional public input on a proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance.  This decision came after City Plan Commission and the Judiciary & Administration Committee held public hearings for Legislative File 23-1243 in December. This zoning change aims to address the growing demand for affordable housing options while promoting responsible land use planning within our community.

Virtual meeting

Wednesday, January 17th at 5:30 pm

Zoom link: https://cityoflacrosse-org.zoom.us/j/86213560258?pwd=w74Aa8CEEXcCrvq6jSrHNmU6wuwKJv.1

Meeting ID: 862 1356 0258, Passcode: 691982, Phone Number: (507) 473-4847

In-person meeting

Thursday, January 18th at 5:30 pm

The Nature Place’s Marshview Room, 789 Myrick Park Dr., La Crosse, WI 54601

These public meetings are an additional step in ensuring that the voices of our community members are heard and considered in the Common Council’s decision-making process.  Attendees will get an overview of the ordinance, be able to ask questions, and make comments that will be compiled in a report to the Common Council for consideration in February.  For those unable to attend the meetings in person, residents may contact the Department of Planning, Development, and Assessment:  kuhlmanl@cityoflacrosse.org


Other considerations:

Who can afford to build/offer an ADU? To offer an ADU for rent, you have to be a property owner. And, your property has to be large enough and in the right neighborhood. So, relatively well-off property owners will benefit by being able to earn rent from ADUs.

That's not a bad thing, necessarily, but to tout this as an affordable housing solution  maybe doesn't tell the whole story.

We do have a lack of affordable AND liveable housing. Poor insulation, leaky windows, inefficient appliances, and other issues are a problem with many area rentals. To be sure, new ADUs may be more energy efficient, but they are not required to be. So, in a city supposedly determined to reduced carbon emissions, does building more small, unconnected dwellings that may be inefficient really help? Building new things costs carbon after all.

Properties where ADUs are likely to be added are relatively large and expensive, out of reach for many in our community where the per capita income is less than $33,000 per year. Building a little house owned by the people in the big house may add rental units, but that does not necessarily increase the affordability of housing or access to home ownership.

Another solution to affordable housing, and one that would open up ownership of quality properties to a wider range of people might be to remove unrelated persons restrictions and change parking requirements. In other communities, co-housing or housing co-ops are making more quality housing available to a wider economic spectrum of people. Can several young professionals or a group of retired people share a large beautiful home? If there's transit nearby, does everyone have to have a parking place?

Remember, in the olden days, families lived in smaller spaces and large houses were often rooming houses. But when large former rooming and multi-family houses are converted to single family dwellings, housing is lost.

Several old buildings that used to and/or still do offer homes to many are on the edge of being uninhabitable. One place near UWL was originally built as a four-apartment house but it's been condemned and may be razed. The whole history of this beautiful property as well as its ability to offer dense housing in a desirable neighborhood and all the carbon that went into its construction and maintenance may be lost. And this is not the only one. So, another solution might be to make it financially painful for someone to let a useable home crumble (sometimes, so it can be demolished and replaced with an ugly, inefficient human warehouse).

If we are to allow ADUs, then that should be just the first step with equity and access prioritized in further solutions. 

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