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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Sunday, June 04, 2023

Can we build it? Yes we can. Can students afford it? Not a chance.

Madison nonprofit proposes new affordable housing development

The $50 million investment would create 250 apartments in East Madison, to replace a former bakery.

A Madison non-profit intends to create 250 subsidized apartments through a $50 million-plus low-income housing project. 

The Wisconsin Housing Preservation Corp. is contracted to purchase a 6-acre property formerly owned by Bimbo Bakeries in East Madison for the housing project. WHPC has implemented more than 158 low-cost housing developments and over 8,444 family and senior units since the nonprofit began in 2002. 

WHPC president Mary Wright said that nearby properties’ occupancy rates are close to 100%, revealing a need for more affordable housing options in East Madison.

“Our conversations to date with residents, businesses and organizations in this neighborhood have affirmed the demand for a project like this in this location,” Wright told the Wisconsin State Journal. 

Affordability, along with equitable access to resources, has been central to the conversation regarding development in this area. Linda Horvath, a City of Madison Urban Planner, explained what this means for future developments in East Madison. 

“We’re focusing on mobility, creating equitable and inclusive access to transit, to bike and ped facilities,” Horvath said.  “We want this to be an area where traditionally underrepresented groups find it to be welcoming.”

Wright emphasized the desirability of the project’s location due to its proximity to grocery stores, schools, health clinics and public transportation.

However, the proposal would place the housing units within the 65-decibel boundary of the F-35 jet noise map. These areas are considered too loud for residential developments without significant soundproofing, raising concern on the effect this could have on future residents. 

Dis. 12 Alder and City Council President Syed Abbas, who represents the site, urged the city to wait to approve the housing project until the F-35 jets arrive in Madison and studies have been conducted.  

“This is important for our city to decide,” Abbas said. “Do we want people of color and marginalized communities in these areas?”

Wright addressed the issue of jet noise, saying that WHPC would use special insulating measures and upgraded building materials to mitigate the sounds produced by the jets

“As new construction, this project is uniquely positioned to help reduce noise, and WHPC is committed to doing this through upgraded materials such as windows, doors, walls and insulation,” Wright said.

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The development would achieve 20% of Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s 2021 Housing Forward Plan, which calls for 1,250 new low-cost units in Madison in the next five years, according to The Wisconsin State Journal. 

“This project would give approximately 250 households the opportunity to have an affordable rent so they can afford other essential needs like health care, food and transportation,” Wright said.

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