La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said the number of single-family homes being converted into rental properties is snowballing.

There are nearly 700 single-family homes registered with the city as rentals.

Now the city is considering whether it should temporarily put the brakes on any more of those conversions.

The city's Neighborhood Revitalization Commission voted unanimously Monday night to recommend the temporary moratorium.

"What we have documented, what we know, is that primarily, the orders to correct that our inspection department issues predominantly are issued to rental properties. The calls for service, whether it's police calls or fire calls ...those challenges predominantly have been in rental properties," said Kabat.

That's why he said a temporary moratorium halting any more of those conversions would buy city government something it really needs -- time.

"We've got to come up with some other solution, whether, again, it's regulation or some other program, to make sure that when single-family homes are rented, that it's done right," said Kabat.

But City of La Crosse Chief Building Inspector David Reinhart said he doesn't think a moratorium will realistically stop anybody who wants to convert a home.

"We get people all the time that try to get away with not following the ordinances. So I don't see this as any change," said Reinhart.

Plus, he said his department would likely be too short-staffed to keep up.

"With as many new ordinances that have been created, we don't have the staff to enforce them. So this would just be one more," said Reinhart.

"My concern is that, all of a sudden, it's become an issue and I'm not understanding why," said Apartment Association of the La Crosse Area President Pamela Strittmater.

She said there are already plenty of options for dealing with troublesome neighbors.

"If you have a complaint with somebody, whether it be a single-family homeowner, or a rental property owner, or a tenant, there's lots of channels in the city of La Crosse to follow through on with a complaint. And they're followed through," said Strittmater.

Kabat said he doesn't mean to paint all renters with a broad brush. He's lived in rental housing himself.

But he said homeowners tend to be more invested in their communities.

"They're investing in their schools, they're investing in their parks, they become a fabric of that neighborhood versus the more transient nature," said Kabat.

This moratorium has a long way to go if it's going to become a reality. Over the next month, city staff will research whether the moratorium is feasible -- and legal -- and present their findings at the July Neighborhood Revitalization Committee meeting. Then it's going to have to go through all the appropriate committees and eventually be put up for a vote before the Common Council.

Kabat said he thinks a six-month moratorium would be reasonable. The Neighborhood Revitalization Commission recommended a year-long moratorium Monday night.