The Builders Legal Action and Research Fund (BLAR Fund) is one of the great success stories of the Wisconsin Builders Association (WBA).
This fund, which was established by the WBA Board of Directors in 1993, is an important tool for advancing policies that benefit housing in Wisconsin. The fund is financed every year by all WBA members.
This fund is segregated from other association programs and is administered by the WBA Executive Committee. Local associations, as well as WBA, may submit requests to use these funds to help finance important court cases, research, and other matters that effect housing in Wisconsin.
BLAR FuND EXPENDITURE CRITERIA
Does the request have matching funds made available by the member applicant and the local HBA?
Does the request address a specific WBA policy priority?
Does this request involve a legal issue(s) that will adversity impact the cost of housing in Wisconsin?
Is there a likelihood that this request may establish an important legal precedent that effects the cost of housing in Wisconsin?
Would WBA’s participation in the request help or harm the outcome?
Is there is a good likelihood of success?
In regard to legal expenditures, funding will mainly be provided for cases at the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court level because that is the level at which decisions become legal precedents for other courts
BLAR Fund Areas of Focus
Legal Action: We all know that court decisions can have a major impact on the business climate in which WBA members operate. As such, BLAR resources are frequently used to advocate in the courts against illegal local ordinances and to establish importance precedents that are applicable statewide.
Research: One of the keys to successful advocacy is to have credible information in support of your position. Therefore, BLAR also funds research efforts, such as a study examining alternatives to the Wisconsin’s property tax, reforms to Wisconsin wetland laws, administrative rules, and guidance, and streamlining of the one and two-family code on wall bracing.
Resources have also been used to obtain information demonstrating the important positive financial impact housing has on Wisconsin’s economy. These studies provide policy makers with the facts needed to make important decisions that impact WBA members.
Advocacy Efforts: The BLAR Fund is also used to advocate for WBA members in many other ways. BLAR resources may be used to help provide legal assistance and lobbying support to aid the WBA advocacy agenda each legislative session.
Who Benefits from the BLAR Fund?
Who benefits from the BLAR Fund? The short answer is all WBA members benefit from the BLAR Fund as well as homeowners since these funds work to keep housing affordable in Wisconsin. The BLAR Fund is a key component of the value membership in WBA offers to members: an entire industry supporting an individual member for the benefit of all.
This is especially important for members who do not have the financial resources to wage a protracted legal effort involving issues with statewide impact.
A significant number of expenditures from the BLAR Fund have been used to fund lawsuits, research, and support to aid WBA’s advocacy efforts. WBA believes that assisting members’ efforts to defeat damaging policy or legislation when it is initially proposed is the most cost-effective way to address issues that increase the cost of housing.
BLAR FUND IN ACTION
Annually, a portion of BLAR funds are spent filing “amicus briefs” in important court cases that could have an effect on construction and development in Wisconsin. Amicus briefs are a way for associations like the WBA to present our side on a case, and they are entered into the record and read by the judges deciding cases. In an effort to provide more transparency and give members a better idea of how these funds are spent, you can check out the latest briefs here.
Appeal No. 2017AP516: State of Wisconsin ex rel. The Peter Ogden Family Trust of 2008 and The Therese A. Mahoney-Ogden Family Trust of 2008 v. Board of Review for the Town of Delafield. This case presents the court with the opportunity to clarify whether a property owner must demonstrate that the agricultural use of the land generates income or has a business purpose in order to qualify for a use value property tax assessment under the use value law. The position outlined in the WBA/WRA amicus brief was supported by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a decision release on March 14, 2019. This is a big win for property owners in Wisconsin.
Brief - Town of Lincoln v. City of Whitehall: The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected the direct annexation by the Town of Lincoln because the property owners failed to have the necessary signatures of all of the land owners to qualify for a “direct annexation by unanimous consent”. The decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court can be viewed here.
BLAR Fund Request Application
BLAR Fund requests must be made from a local home builders association, and they must also have matching funds being provided by the local HBA and the member who is requesting those funds. Applications for BLAR Fund requests must be completed in full and submitted to the local association for approval of matching funds, then submitted to WBA staff for consideration by the WBA Executive Committee.
BLAR Fund requests are currently capped at $5000 per local HBA per each calendar year. The WBA Executive Committee may waive this provision if a funding request is deemed vital to the future of housing and land use policy in Wisconsin. Grants from the BLAR fund will be issued directly to law firms or consultants that are handling a case or research project.
The current policy and application was approved by the WBA Executive Committee on September 7, 2017.