Mayoral candidates Soglin, Resnick debate affordable housing, homelessness

Ald. Scott Resnick (right) and Mayor Paul Soglin (left) debated at the Concourse Hotel Wednesday.

Image By: Nick Monfeli

Incumbent Paul Soglin and Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, stressed their progressive values in the fourth Madison mayoral debate since the primary election, hosted by the Democratic Party of Dane County.

The panel opened by asking what the candidates would do to address Madison’s lack of affordable housing.

“No one in this city has done more to create affordable housing than I have,” Soglin said.

The current mayor said he added housing options to double the vacancy rate in Madison, which previously had the lowest in the country. He added that a recently implemented five-year commitment to creating new, affordable housing covers the homeless and working families.

Resnick questioned how to pay for affordable housing in the long term and suggested incentivising developers. However, Soglin said the city cannot impose those requirements on a private building without providing financial support, which the city already does.

The panel then asked about the rise in homelessness and specifically about support for a comprehensive, accessible day center. The city currently has a Salvation Army temporary nighttime shelter for single homeless women, a center for homeless families called The Road Home and emergency shelter called Porchlight, but not many viable daytime options.

Resnick said the city needs a collaborative approach to working with philanthropic partners and Dane County executives to find realistic solutions.

Soglin said deinstitutionalization at the state and federal levels has contributed to the issue. He said he supports developing more community pride and creating a policy where no one is discharged from a prison or treatment center without having housing accommodations.

When panelist Ald. Shiva Bider-Sielaff, District 5, pushed for a firm answer on the day center, Soglin added he would not force taxpayers to pay double to support the center when he considers it a Dane County issue. Resnick offered support for the center and said the city can no longer make excuses.

“If we don’t treat our partners as true partners, we’re never going to see the kind of collaboration that we dream of,” Resnick said.

The candidates continued to debate racial disparity, infrastructure development and crime prevention, especially in youth.

The general election will be held April 7.

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