Mayor, alders to propose zoning changes for affordable housing to Madison Common Council

MADISON, Wis.– A proposal of zoning changes was nearly complete and ready to be introduced to the Madison Common Council last spring, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was pushed aside until tonight.

The pandemic was just a small interruption in what Alder Patrick Heck called a “slow process” to make housing affordable in Madison.

“There were staff and alders working on this before I even became alder,” Heck said.

It’s an issue Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway made her passion project.

“Many people are housing cost burdened,” Rhodes-Conway said. “That means they are paying more than a third of their income on rent or their mortgage.”

Rhodes-Conway and many alders will ask the Madison Common Council to replace a city ordinance with one that allows for cooperative housing in any residential or mixed-use zoning district.

“One of the fundamental problems that we’re trying to correct is that there’s a mismatch between what we say we want in our plans and what’s allowable under our zoning,” Rhodes-Conway said.

Rhodes-Conway said these zoning changes will make it easier to build affordable multi-unit buildings and convert existing homes into cooperative living spaces.

“More things would be allowed without needing a review from the plan commission and the city council,” Rhodes-Conway said.

Heck said the changes could be a natural way of making housing more affordable across Madison.

“Currently housing co-ops are primarily near campus and downtown,” Heck said. “This will open opportunities throughout the city.”

In the time spent waiting to introduce this proposal, housing security only became worse. While the city and county threw millions of dollars into rental assistance, Rhodes-Conway said it’s time for a permanent solution.

“Long term, we need to have more available units, and long term we need to have more affordable available units,” Rhodes-Conway said. “The way that we do that is by building more housing.”

Heck expects these changes to be referred to the housing strategies committee and the plan commission before coming back to the Madison Common Council for approval.

The proposal will be introduced during the virtual Madison Common Council meeting on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.