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Monroe eyes low-interest loan program
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MONROE - The city could provide low-interest loans to help residents improve their homes or businesses - but it needs input from residents before moving forward.

The Monroe Common Council recently hired Vierbicher and Associates to take part in economic development activities. These include conducting workshops and gaining feedback from the public regarding a plan to offer zero- or low-interest loans to Monroe residents as a way to help them improve their homes.

The city has looked more closely at housing conditions after residents helping to shape the Monroe Comprehensive Plan noted a lack of affordable, quality rentals and homes within the city.

Assistant City Administrator Martin Shanks developed a survey to ask residents for feedback on housing stock. Survey questions include the preferred size and amenities of a rental and how much owners plan to renovate their building.

"Details determined on the survey should help offer ideas for the programs," Shanks said. "The premise is to offer to make improvements and low-interest loans."

The idea for the program came from Monona. Shanks said in Monona's plan, for example, any home worth 50 percent or less than the mean value of a home in the community was eligible for a non-interest loan through the city's housing authority.

If a plan were to come to fruition, there are various methods to fund it. The city's fund balance is one option: The revolving nature of loans could prove more beneficial than a one-time purchase, Shanks said.

The components of the plan could include a housing improvement option, a business revolving loan fund and implementing a community development authority to oversee such projects. However, Shanks said, the first step is to get as much input as possible in order to go forward with any programs. After the survey, the next step will be public workshops conducted by Vierbicher.

The survey itself is available online or in paper form. Printed copies can be found at City Hall, the public library, Behring Senior Center and the Monroe Chamber of Commerce. Surveys will be available until March 14.