City Council recently approved a resolution to recognize housing as a human right and announce the city’s commitment to developing a housing plan in Dane County to address homelessness and inequality in housing.
According to the resolution, homelessness affects a wide range of citizens and in Madison, families have been turned away from shelter and members of underrepresented groups have been unfairly targeted and faced additional barriers to finding housing.
Homelessness in the city has also been a frequent topic of discussion among officials over the past several months, particularly in light of the national housing crisis.
“We are experiencing a national housing crisis due to a record number of mortgage foreclosures and an extreme shortage of affordable housing,” the resolution said.
According to Porchlight’s website, a local housing charity, Madison’s 2008 homeless population rose to its highest level since 2000. In 2008, more than 3,300 people were turned away from shelters due to lack of space.
The resolution details reasons why a housing plan is required and plans to address housing needs in the community, Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 5, said.
Bidar-Sielaff and the rest of the council unanimously passed the resolution on Tuesday.
“Housing [should] be recognized as a human right, and all people who desire a place of shelter and stable long-term housing [should] be prioritized to have this basic need met both temporarily and permanently,” the resolution said.
Bidar-Sielaff seconded the sentiment, adding a lack of housing negatively affects all aspects of life.
“It is a human right,” she said. “I do think housing stability is critical for everything with a family. [Without housing,] it is very difficult to have everything else like jobs and schools,” she added.
Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2, said her constituents have brought the increase of foreclosure-related homelessness to her attention.
The county provides human services and funds multiple housing initiatives, like Habitat for Humanity, Bidar-Sielaff said. The city also supports specific programs that are also addressing homelessness, such as Neighborhood Center funding, she added.
“The Housing Plan will include an assessment of the affordable and accessible housing needs in Madison and recommendations for strategies to provide those housing units and shelter beds at appropriate affordability levels by 2031,” the resolution said.
The funding for the Housing Plan will come from public funds, including Tax Increment Financing and the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, along with private dollars, according to the resolution.
To combat the problem, the People’s Affordable Housing Vision is circulating a petition to expand low income housing opportunities, help the homeless find their way to stable housing and increase government resources to support housing programs.
The petition includes demands ranging from the improvement of homeless services to the protection of service animals.
The resolution also includes the addition of a new staff person that would be responsible for addressing issues that relate to housing policies.
The estimated cost of this position is $85,500, which is included in the 2012 operating budget.
According to the resolution, the city will continue to emphasize stable, long-term housing, as it is the “first step” to stabilizing the struggles of employment, addiction and mental/physical issues.