August 18, 2009

Half-price homes: Local government employees may get great deal on city-owned houses

If you work for a local government, this home at 912 Birch St., could be yours for $43,000
under a program being considered by the City Council.

The city will consider selling five houses at half price to local government employees under a proposal introduced to the City Council Tuesday night.

City, county and Racine Unified employees would be eligible for the "Choose Racine Home Purchase Program," which would require them to live in the homes for at least five years. The homes, all owned by the city, for sale include:
  • A duplex at 900 Center St.
  • 1732 Mead St.
  • 1805 Mead St. (needs repair before sale)
  • 906 Walnut St.
  • 912 Birch St.
The idea was presented in a letter by Development Director Brian O'Connell to the City Council. It's an alternative, or possibly an addition, to an idea introduced by Aldermen Aron Wisneski and Terry McCarthy to encourage local government employees to build homes in the city.

The home construction proposal is somewhat limited because there are only about three lots in the city that would be eligible. The home purchase program would expand the city's efforts to attract new home owners.

The home on Birch Street was involved in a serious fire in 2007. Firefighters rescued a 4-year-old boy from the blaze, which severely damaged the home located near the Root River.

Housing Technician Bill Bielefeldt worked to save the home, which had to be completely gutted. New plumbing, electricity, drywall, furnace and water heater were installed. The home also has new siding, kitchen cabinets, flooring, carpet and a new roof.

The 931-square-foot home, with two bedrooms and one bathroom, was featured on the 2008 tour of homes. It's now listed at $85,900, which is marked down $25,000 since June. Buyers may also be eligible for special loan programs.

The "Choose Racine Home Purchase Program"was referred Tuesday night to the Housing Loan Board for further consideration.


  1. Some of these half price properties are located in areas where the owners should receive combat pay just to live there. Unless your a police officer packing heat ... bid at your own risk. Wait they're close to the newly created art distict. Buy, Buy ... Good Bye.

  2. I think that a high ranking Police or Fire official should move into that house to show the citizens of Racine how safe it is to live in the city.

    Tell me again, why isn't there a city residency requirement???

  3. the residency requirement was tossed out because they can't legally make that kind of restriction.

  4. Pool

    They do in Milwaukee (require residency)and why only City staff?

  5. City officials, government employees, elected officials should not be scratching each others backs. It doesn't look right because it isn't right. Why not sell the properties to the highest bidder and reduce the size of government by the amount of the sales?

  6. I'm with you Denis.
    Why should these classes of citizens get special consideration.
    This is the type of deal(?) that would go on in Russia, or be available from Countrywide to only Congress.

  7. I would hope the city really consider the implications of offering special deals to public employees and not the public. I'm not a lawyer so I don't know the legal implications but there seems to be some real ethical issues offering people special deals for being public employees. Would they have to report this special treatment on taxes and ethics reports? Many will see this as additional compensation.

  8. I would like to see a teacher, fire fighter or police officer living in those areas. I see nothing wrong with incentives. The incentive should be counted as a benefit in pay.

    I think we should require our city workers to reside in the city. It is only right. Don't give me your rules and run around and you live in Caledonia.

    I would love to see residency requirement. You want nice city job move to the city.

  9. If they plan to do this, it should be open to ANY resident, not just public employees.

  10. Another dumb idea by Aldermen Aron Wisneski and Terry McCarthy . They need to do something important for the taxpayers and out politics. I know who to NOT to vote for next election !!

  11. Tim the Shrubber8/19/2009 11:59 AM

    Out of curiosity, how did to city come to own these properties?

  12. Here we go again; last time it was free property to the select group of city employees and now it's discount housing to the same select group. Life in Racine can be good if you're "in with the in-crowd."

    Why don't Wisneski and McCarthy just give the average Racine citizens the finger and be done with it.

    Enough with your "special interest" giveaways and discounts. Put these properties on the block (to the general public), get rid of them, and quit competing against local real estate companies and investors! The city is not in the real estate business, despite what Dickert and his minions might think.

    Were these houses the city foreclosed on for taxes or were they purchased with taxpayer dollars? If so, how much was paid for them and is the city making a profit?

  13. Lot's of great points already..Here's my thoughts:

    Hey Pete..I forgot how to do that "linky" thing...

  14. First of all the city employees aren't asking for house discounts in the city, the aldermen are.

    Second, there used to be residency requirements decades ago for city personnel. That policy was tossed out, we were told that it was "illegal" and the employees could live where they wanted to.

  15. Anon 6:23, no one said the city employees were asking for this. It was made plain in the article that it is Wisneski and McCarthy playing favorites again.

    I think there is some confusion here about the legality of requiring city employees to live in the city. Most cities across the country have this requirement. Isn't it one of the requirements Kim Plache had to satisfy for her run for mayor last Spring?

  16. I seriously doubt residency requirements are illegal. Did anyone question that. Bet our city went downhill from there, when they all fled to Caledonia. Heck our president has restrictions. Just look at all the restrictions to become president. The tax payers are paying the salaries let them decide where the people they hire live. I will do some legal research BRB.

  17. That didn't take long. Here it is. They even mention us personally.

    Suwheeeeet! I am going into the moving van business.

    Employees FAQ 16
    Are municipal residency ordinances valid?

    The answer is a definite "yes." Yet, it is understandable why some local officials may be confused on this point considering that legislation is perennially introduced limiting municipal authority to impose residency requirements and some municipalities have been involved in litigation over the validity of residency ordinances.

    So far, however, no legislation has been enacted limiting municipal authority to enact residency requirements. Also, municipal residency ordinances have been consistently upheld by Wisconsin courts. Indeed, the court of appeals recently issued a decision upholding the City of Racine's residency ordinance against a constitutional challenge.[1]

    Municipal authority to enact residency requirements for employees is found under the broad grant of authority provided to municipalities by the statutory home rule provisions (sec. 61.34(1), Wis. Stats., for villages and sec. 62.11(5), Wis. Stats., for cities).

    Municipal employee residency ordinances generally provide that all municipal employees, or specified classes of employees (typically police officers and firefighters), must live inside or within a certain distance of the corporate boundaries. According to a 1997 survey of League members conducted by League staff, at least 192 cities and villages in Wisconsin have enacted some type of residency requirement for their employees. Residency ordinances typically require newly hired employees to establish municipal residence within a specified period, such as twelve months. Employees who lived outside of the municipality at the time of adoption of the ordinance would not have to meet the residency requirement, unless they moved. In addition, residency ordinances may contain provisions for the granting of exceptions for hardship or special circumstances.

    Residency requirements are constitutionally valid.

  18. Did Kim Plache move yet?

  19. Anon 9:24 - a nice bit of research. Thanks for putting that debate to rest. Now, let's enforce it. And let's force the City Council to stop playing favorites with their insiders.

  20. Research is only as good as the researcher. Racine has residency for department heads and does enforce it.

    However, residency for other employees was negotiated away years ago and would have to be bargained for in Union Contracts:

    Residency is a mandatory subject of collective bargaining.

    The establishment of an employee residency requirement is not always a matter subject solely to the preference of a municipal governing body. A municipality with unionized employees is required to negotiate with union representatives over an intention to establish a residency requirement for union employees. The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) has, since the 1970s, considered the establishment of a residency requirement to be a mandatory subject of bargaining.

  21. That's stupid. Unions go too far. The unions are not elected governing bodies and should not have ANY power of over city policy that does not directly affect wages or benefits. It should be up to the city to decide who they hire and from where, not the unions.

  22. Anon 2:30 -

    You're wrong. City department "Heads" Do NOT live in the city, at least most of them DO NOT. Check the Fire and Police Dept's for starters.

    I would guess 2% live in the city and that may be a high end percentage.

  23. It is NOT illegal as was stated before. WERC considers it part of bargaining. Considers does not make it a law.

    You want to work here then live here. Say the people who pay your salaries.

    Work here, live here, spend your free time making it a better city, pay the taxes, and obey the rules you enforce on us.

  24. Time to break some unions, first up the teachers union

  25. Frankly, unions have run their course in this country. The labor laws have caught up with them to the point where they are nothing more than political money-grubbers anymore. I remember when we had to stike at the CNH plant in Sturtevant. Near 2/3 of us voted against the strike because it was so close to Christmas and the union forced us to strike. I remember having to picket in the cold with a sign that read "CNH Stole My Christmas" when all the time I was cursing the union for doing it.

  26. The law is on our side. The unions will have to deal with it. I don't care if they all go on strike. I know some out of work people who are willing to take their place. Live in the city you work for and pays your salary. That is how it should be. Especially since Racine is suffering so badly.

  27. Right, unions only have power because they can strike and there are so many out of work it just could back fire on them. Call their bluff. Move to the city is a great idea.

  28. Unions are out of control. They are doing more harm than good. When I found out about the salary and benefits I though we should all get in the union. But that begs the question then who will pay? Exactly... Who will pay, we are paying now. It is unfair. Unions cannot continue to demand far beyond what the average tax payer is making and receiving in benefits. We need to change this.

  29. Break the City Unions.

  30. Union members are idiots - look what they did at Mercury Marine - if I was management I would pick up and leave. Unfortunately that is really going to hurt the city and the supporting business's in the area, but that's the union mentality. They would rather lose their jobs than accept concessions. Unions have caused every company in Wisconsin to move or go out of business.