While Wisconsin’s housing market is doing well overall, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority chief operating officer Brian Schimming hopes the agency’s new program announced Monday in La Crosse will address a category that isn’t do as well: fixer-uppers.

“Let’s be candid. Not every home sometimes is move-in ready,” Schimming said.

WHEDA’s HomeStyle Renovation program, available through a partnership with Fannie Mae, was launched statewide this week to give more people a chance to buy their own home, even if that home needs some work.

“We have a lot of older housing stock in this state. We can rejuvenate a lot of that older stock housing with this program, with an affordable loan that you can do all in one,” Schimming said. “We’re really excited about it.”

La Crosse was a good place to announce the program to rehabilitate older houses because of its historic neighborhoods and 100-year-old homes.

“Not everyone wants to be in the new apartment or the newer condo. They want to get the older home and they want to rehab the home, but sometimes financially — especially when you’re starting out — financially that’s a little bit of a hill to climb,” Schimming said.

La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said WHEDA’s program would offer new options to city residents as they invest in their neighborhoods.

“One of our big challenges here in La Crosse is just how tight our housing market is. What we see on almost a daily basis are the challenges that come with having a supply that is not there yet to meet the demand,” Kabat said.

The HomeStyle program includes a housing rehabilitation program. Programs such as this one encourage more owner-occupied housing, the mayor said.

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“We have a very strong and historic building stock here in the city, and when you have a program that’s really intended to revitalize and enhance that, that’s even more special,” Kabat said.

Under the terms of the program, all renovation costs, including up to six months of mortgage payments if a homeowner is unable to live in a home during renovations, can be financed with a 30-year WHEDA fixed mortgage. Eligible borrowers can also take advantage of the WHEDA down payment program to cover 100 percent of the financing.

To be eligible, prospective homeowners must meet WHEDA income limits, purchase price limits and credit guidelines. The home must be owner-occupied and renovations must be completed within six months of closing.

Nicole Kane, an account executive with WHEDA, said the program would open up possibilities for millennials, who are increasingly buying houses in Wisconsin. About 73 percent of WHEDA loans are going to millennials looking to buy a first home; however, they don’t have the funds available for costly projects such as a new roof, new windows, or kitchen or bathroom renovations.

“Realtors that I’ve talked to have been very excited about this because this is the inventory that hasn’t been moving and they’d love to see those buyers get into market,” Kane said.

Not all improvements are eligible. Home-buyers will not be able to finance swimming pools or hot tubs and other luxury items, and the program cannot be used to demolish and replace a home.

“They can still do carpet, flooring, things of that nature, but really the benefit of this program is going to be utilizing it for those things that are going to increase the value of that property for the borrower down the line,” Kane said.

For more information, visit wheda.com.

“We have a lot of older housing stock in this state. We can rejuvenate a lot of that older stock housing with this program, with an affordable loan that you can do all in one.” Brian Schimming, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority chief operating officer

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Jourdan Vian can be reached at jvian@lacrossetribune.com or follow her on Twitter @Jourdan_LCT.


City government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

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