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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Madison Mayor proposes streamlined approval process for non-traditional housing units

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and three Common Council members introduced a proposal to the council on Tuesday to make building background cottages or Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) easier in Madison. 

The proposal, which is co-sponsored by Alders Patrick Heck, Tag Evers and Grant Foster, would change Accessory Dwelling Units from conditional to a permitted use, allowing owners to avoid the usual lengthy approval process. 

An ADU is a second small dwelling on the same property as a primary unit. 

Madison has many single-family homes and the purpose of the proposal is to increase housing availability and variety, giving residents more accessible housing options, according to Evers. 

“These neighborhoods are often inaccessible to many people in our community,” Evers said. “ADU’s by their very nature tend to be more affordable and therefore are a great way to open a neighborhood to new residents.”

The proposal is part of Rhodes-Conway’s Housing Forward agenda which aims to increase housing density and diversity. The agenda estimates that by 2040 there could be as many as 70,000 more Madison residents and 40,000 households.

As Madison’s population continues to increase, ADU’s could help match housing growth to population growth, according to Rhodes-Conway.

“Madison is growing rapidly, and our population growth has long outpaced our housing growth,” Rhodes-Conway said in a statement. “ADUs and backyard cottages are one way we can add housing and housing choice to our city.”  

The proposal increases the maximum size of ADU’s from 700 to 900 square feet and limits the unit to two bedrooms. The primary or accessory dwelling must be owner-occupied with the allowance of a 6-month temporary absence.

Foster said that simplifying the process to construct ADU’s would not only increase housing availability but benefit property owners. 

“The additional housing unit can help accommodate extended family living arrangements by providing a home for an aging parent or an adult child and in other cases, the additional rental income can help someone pay their bills and continue to stay in the neighborhood,” Foster said. 

The Plan Commission will review Rhodes-Conway’s proposal on Nov. 22 and a final decision from the council is expected on Dec. 7. 

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The Housing Forward agenda, which was initially announced in April, includes other initiatives including purchasing land for affordable housing, partnering with homeless shelters and increasing homeownership opportunities for people of color. 

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