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Decorah City Council holds a long discussion about tax abatements and affordable housing

Posted: Wed, Jan 3, 2018 6:32 AM

The Decorah City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to approve a renewal of the city's property tax abatement program for new construction and significant remodeling--but not before holding a lengthy discussion about the issue.

"I've struggled with this issue," admitted city council member Dan Bellrichard.  He believes the program doesn't increase the amount of affordable housing in Decorah, but does increase the city's tax base.  City council member Andy Carlson also had mixed emotions.  He said tax abatements are normally used to take an undesirable situation and make it desirable--but he wondered "is Decorah undesirable?"  City council member Ross Hadley said he believed the focus should be on apartments and rental housing, but he wondered if removing the dollar cap on the program would allow people who build apartment complexes to get tax breaks.  "We need inexpensive rentals," he told the council.

In the end, council members Randy Schissel and Andy Carlson voted against the program, but every other city council member approved the renewal.