Madison’s plans for a permanent housing facility for the homeless are moving forward after the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority awarded the program $5.4 million in affordable housing tax credits last week.
Natalie Erdman, executive director of the Community Development Authority, said these tax credits will fund about 80 percent of the project. Erdman said the facility’s developer, Heartland Housing Inc., will reach out to the city and Dane County for further funding and apply for federal loans to complete the project.
Erdman said the facility will include 60 apartments, providing support services for people who are chronically homelessness. The building will be located at 709 Rethke Avenue near East Washington Street. Heartland will come up with tenant selection criteria to determine who qualifies for the housing.
“Generally, we are looking at people who have suffered from homelessness for prolonged periods of time who are single adults,” she said. “There are no families or married couples here.”
Ald. Marsha Rummel, District 6, said the survival of the project hinged on whether or not Heartland could secure the tax credit funding. According to Rummel, the tax credit program allows the developer to offset the cost of construction through a tax benefit program for investors.
Dane County Board Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner said the funding award is a critical first step in meeting one of the city’s biggest unmet needs.
“We have hundreds of people on our streets, we have thousands in our shelter system and we have lots of people in cars and doubled up on couches all over the county,” she said. “Housing and security are huge problems for us.”
According to Wegleitner, 36,000 households are “housing insecure,” meaning the tenants are putting 30 percent or more of their income toward their housing payment every month.
Wegleitner also said this facility will help serve those who technically cannot afford their own homes.
The next step for Heartland is to work with the city to obtain land use approvals and additional funding, Rummel said. Nearby neighbors and other members of the community will then be notified of a public hearing to address any concerns they may have about the building.
“I know there will be concerns in the neighborhood, because it is a highway location on the edge of a neighborhood that may be considered more fragile,” Rummel said.
Erdman said once funding and land use requirements are met, Heartland hopes to begin construction during the first quarter of 2015.
Rummel said she looks forward to watching the project progress and believes in the cooperation of the city, Dane County and Heartland.
“It is really exciting, this is the first time we have built something like this,” she said. “It is a small step but an important step in dealing with the very serious housing issues that we face.”