Housing resource officials called for more affordable housing solutions in Madison after the city housing department closed their wait list for public housing to new applicants earlier this year.
The Community Development Authority currently has a housing wait list of more than 3,000 families in the Madison area and made the decision in February not to accept any more applicants indefinitely, according to Lisa Daniels, admissions supervisor for the CDA.
According to Daniels, there are too many applicants at this time to fill up vacancies. The list often requires waiting for one to two years on average, she said, and 120 new applicants were added last year alone.
“We just don’t feel it’s fair with over 3,000 families already on the list to give false hope,” Daniels said.
CDA is the largest assisted housing provider in Dane County, serving around 2,500 households, Daniels said. Since the federal government has stopped funding public housing in recent years, urban areas are tearing down large subsidized housing complexes in favor of the voucher system, which is now the major program for assisting low-income families, she said.
Because of Madison’s high rents, the drawback of the voucher system is more government assistance is necessary and the money doesn’t go as far, Agustin Olvera, director of the City of Madison’s Housing Division said. CDA is looking for new ways of increasing assistance such as revamping old housing stock in the future, he said.
According to Kristin Rucinski, executive director of The Road Home, a local housing program, Madison has a tight rental market, with the city’s vacancy rate at an all-time low of 2 percent. This is an indicator of how hard it is for low-income individuals and families, she said.
“There is constantly a waiting list for need-based help,” Rucinski said. “We need more affordable housing.”
Rucinski said government help is also not likely due to spending cutbacks. However, local need-based agencies collaborate rather well with the city to deal with the issue of homelessness.
As soon as individuals come to The Road Home and other Madison shelters, they are required to fill out the application for the CDA’s waiting list, Rucinski said.
CDA’s decision may prolong the ability to get permanent affordable housing in the long term, but will help those already on the list, Beatrice Hadidan, Resource Development Director for Porchlight Inc., a need-based agency in Madison, said.
“There’s such a continuum of homelessness, not just single men and panhandlers downtown,” says Hadidan. “It’s families down on their luck. It’s people with mental illness. It’s a myriad of reasons and what we’re seeing is very small.”
Hadidan said long-term housing is critical for the families that will never be above the poverty line. Porchlight is one agency that created new ways of assisting people by offering as many resources as possible, such as job training and a veteran’s transitional housing program, she said.
However, Hadidan said closing the wait list has yet to affect Madison’s need-based agencies and their ability to reach out to individuals struggling to find permanent housing in the tight housing market.