Ald. Zach Wood, District 8, held a listening session to engage University of Wisconsin students in reviewing student housing problems in the city of Madison Wednesday.
Wood said every two years, the Housing Strategy Committee goes through every chapter of the housing policy. Most recently, the committee began looking specifically at student housing.
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He said the committee realized they did not have a lot of data and hoped the listening sessions could help to collect both quantitative and qualitative data.
“Part of the problem we have with student housing is we don’t fully understand what the problem is,” Wood said. “It is a very, very complicated problem, more complicated than traditional affordable housing as far as black and white solutions to it.”
Matt Wachter, the housing initiatives specialist for the city of Madison, said there is a 1 percent growth in population every year. Between 2007 and 2015, the rental landscape of city changed when 17,000 new renters, mainly Millennials, moved to Madison.
Comparing to other Big 10 schools, Wachter said UW is in a normal range for housing costs.
Wachter said they are seeing more out-of-state students and in general those students come from families with higher incomes. This specifically could help drive some of the changes in the housing market.
Throughout the city, some of the more affordable student housing options are those that have complaints filed for quality-related issues. He said these are often underreported.
“In talking to both building inspection and the Tenant Resource Center, it’s very common students don’t know there’s a place called building inspection where you can call if you’re living in substandard housing where there’s some sort of violation,” Wachter said.
Watcher said students might not know how to address housing issues. Plus, he said students are sometimes treated differently by landlords.
When trying to find solutions to solve the affordable student housing problem, many do not apply to students or work in accordance with Madison policies. Specifically, he said affordable housing programs often explicitly say they can not build housing for students.
Wood said when it comes to dealing with student debt and affordable college, the city can only directly impact housing and even that can be challenging.
Wood said he hopes to host more housing listening sessions in the future to discuss more concerns about student housing.