Experts on the affordable housing crisis in Dane County led a panel discussing the impacts of the crisis and potential solutions, Tuesday night.

Speakers focused on how widespread of an issue affordable housing is in Dane County. Olivia Parry, a senior planner for Dane County, said 7% of households in Dane County spend over 50% of their income on housing.

Tom Landgraf — a developer at Dimension Development, LLC — said nationally, housing is at pre-recession levels again. This means nationally, there is underbuilding, meaning there are not enough housing developments being built to meet the current demand, according to Landgraf. Landgraf said Dane County was ranked second among Wisconsin counties in terms of underbuilding.

“When you look at it [underbuilding] in Wisconsin, Dane County is where the biggest gap is occurring,” Landgraf said. “So it does not surprise anyone that we are having some issues.”

Parry and Landgraf said there is a significant lack of affordable housing options within Dane County.

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Parry said in 2019, Dane County built 578 affordable housing units. Parry said in order to bridge the housing gap, Dane County would have to build 578 units each year for the next 22.6 years.

“We had a peak of funding last year because some of the projects in prior years didn’t come through, so we actually had extra money last year,” Parry said.

Parry said Dane County is expecting its population to increase by 40,000 over the next 20 years. Parry said most of these 40,000 people would be in need of affordable housing, meaning the housing gap would widen even more.

Revel Sims, an assistant professor in the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture, said there is a visible decline in affordable housing across the country resulting in a scarcity of housing.

“The primary cause of the crisis of affordability is scarcity,” Sims said. “A tangible representation of this scarcity is the visual decline in the number of affordable housing units all across the country.”

Sims said there are some possible fixes to the Dane County’s housing crisis. One of these fixes is utilizing Low Income Housing Tax Credits. Sims said LITHC is the only meaningful, successful way to create affordable housing.

Sims said that over 30 years the program has produced over 3 million housing units across the nation.

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Sims said that while LITHC was the best fix, it has some limitations, as LITHC does not effectively serve the lowest-income households. Furthermore, Sims said LITHC was not a permanent solution because their costs can rise.

“LITHC properties are only regarded to be affordable for 30 years after which they can lose their income restrictions and rent can rise to market rates,” Sims said.

The Urban League of Greater Madison made efforts to decrease the housing gap within Dane County. Ruben Anthony, the CEO & President of the Urban League, said the League has purchased affordable housing through LITHC — giving those houses to residents in need.

Anthony said the League plans to continue to use the LITHC program to provide for Madison residents. He also said they want to focus on wealth building for African Americans and workers who do not have the opportunity to build homes.