A proposed Dane County budget amendment could spark new affordable housing initiatives over the next four years.
Dane County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan said the amendment would create a pool of money specifically set aside for housing projects for low-income residents. The fund would be comparable to other funds that have been created by the city, and the goal of each is to store money in anticipation of benefiting the community, Corrigan said.
“This is a fund that people and developers would know is out there to assist with creating affordable housing projects and it’s something that we hope to do for at least the next four years, by putting $2 million in the fund each year for four years for at least a total of $8 million,” Corrigan said.
The fund for this amendment is going to be created at the county level, which will give it credibility in not only Madison, but surrounding municipalities as well, Brenda Konkel, executive director of the Tenant Resource Center, said.
Konkel said finding developers who are willing to work on affordable housing can be one of the biggest roadblocks for a project, but the funding within this amendment will be a great tool to spark interest.
“When you talk to developers they usually say they can’t develop affordable housing without money, so hopefully this [funding] will be the incentive they need to develop affordable housing,” Konkel said. “It was pretty encouraging that the city got six responses to its last request, including people new to the community.”
Corrigan said she believes Madison’s status as a college town contributes to a higher housing crisis, which is the driver for higher housing prices, but the economy is less of a problem than the housing availability.
“At the same time we’re also seeing people who are struggling to get by in this economy, even if this economy recovered, because a lot of individuals and families are still struggling and don’t have access to affordable housing,” Corrigan said.
The need for affordable housing is not new, yet it is growing and gaining more attention from professors and city officials, Corrigan said.
A study was conducted by a University of Wisconsin professor to assess the county’s affordable housing needs over the summer, Corrigan said. The study concluded it would take 1,000 new units of housing over the next 26 years to eliminate the housing needs of low-income individuals currently in the county, along with those who will be in the future, Corrigan said.
“That study helped highlight what we see; there are a lot of families struggling to stay in their housing or to find housing, and we really felt like we need to do more to make sure there is housing available for families and individuals who need it,” Corrigan said.
Konkel said over the years, the board has recognized that there is a huge need for affordable housing, and the latest reports put numbers to that claim in a way that clearly highlights the problem.
Konkel said she expects a passing vote Monday when the budget is reviewed, and Corrigan said she is also confident that the amendment will pass.