Realtors speak out against La Crosse rental conversion moratorium

A local Realtor group is speaking out on what a moratorium will do to the housing market in La Crosse.

The City Council passed a measure Thursday night that puts a six-month hold on converting single-family homes into rental properties in La Crosse.

The president of the La Crosse Area Realtors Association, Mike Pietrek, said this moratorium could cripple an already fragile yet rebounding housing market in La Crosse.

While some argue the moratorium will allow time to figure out a solution for struggling neighborhoods, Pietrek said there are already tools in place to help that aren’t being used.

After a few strong comments from council members about the moratorium on Thursday night, the measure to put a six-month hold on converting single-family homes into rental properties passed.

“How many people are we punishing to make a statement?” said Council Member Audrey Kader.

“They’re devaluing our city,” said Council Member Robert Seaquist.


But Pietrek said the moratorium is trying to address problems the city already has the tools to fix, like keeping rental homes from getting run-down or having too many people living in a home at one time.

“I spent some time this last week reading through the ordinances. There are simple things, like you have to have storm windows. You have to have screens. You have to have paint. These are all ordinances that are on the book. What we’re saying is they’re just not being enforced,” said Pietrek.

Pietrek said it will lead to homes losing value because properties that would be bought up by investors will sit on the market and have to be sold for less.

“So when we take those foreclosures and take those properties that have dropped maybe 50 cents on the dollar to where they would have sold to where an investor would have bought it, when houses in the neighborhood go to sell, the appraiser is going to go out and use that sale as a comparable,” said Pietrek.

And while Pietrek said it’s bad news for the market, more importantly, he said it attacks people’s rights.

“Every person in the United States has the right to own property. They have the right to use that property and we feel that is an infringement on those rights,” said Pietrek.

Many city leaders said the moratorium is an important “time-out” to come up with a good plan for how to balance the number of rental homes to owner-occupied homes.

The goal is to find a solution to the problem of run-down and struggling neighborhoods.

A committee will also be formed to start working on the problem.