After hours of public hearings and debate over Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s inclusionary-zoning plan, the City Council voted to adopt the program.
“I’m very proud of the City Council for adopting this historic ordinance,” City Council President Mike Verveer said in the early hours of Tuesday.
Most expected the plan to pass, especially after Smart Growth Madison, a group of developers who once opposed the plan, joined the city’s efforts Sunday night.
Inclusionary zoning, which has been debated and amended numerous times by City Council over the past year, requires developers to create affordable housing units within new developments they construct. The plan includes any projects of 10 units or more to reserve 15 percent of units for affordable housing. In exchange, contractors receive benefits such as leniency in zoning regulations. This would include, for example, allowing more density within buildings, such as the construction of additional stories and the addition of more units.
Madison’s affordable housing plan focuses on households earning a moderate income, and not on low-income households. Those who qualify are people earning below the median Dane County income such as teachers, nurses and clerical staff.
During the public hearings at the beginning of the meeting, numerous citizens representing diverse groups in Madison voiced their concerns about the plan, but most expressed their desire to see inclusionary zoning become a reality in Madison.
Many were concerned too many households spend more than one third of their income on housing, which is what is classified as affordable housing.
Carol Kiemel, president of the League of Women Voters, spoke on behalf of the group and said she was optimistic about the future of the program. She also stated during the meeting that not only will neighborhoods in Madison become more diverse with the approval of the plan, but Madison-area schools will also experience the benefits of diversity.
The League of Women’s Voters, along with many other groups present at the meeting, supported the ordinance and believed it was time to pass the plan, which has been in the City Council’s agenda for more than a year.
Others, like the Apartment Association of South Central Wisconsin, disagreed that the plan is needed in Madison, stating the housing market is currently in a depressed state, which should by itself make housing available and affordable.
After the public hearings concluded, council members stated their cases for any changes they thought necessary to the ordinance before voting.
Ald. Austin King, District 8, who represents the majority of student housing, stated during the meeting the purpose of the plan is to create greater diversity throughout Madison, noting that even within student housing, pricing and income vary considerably.
King also stated he hoped the plan would allow “people to live on the same block with different incomes.”