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Friday, May 24, 2024

Common Council proposes zoning changes to promote affordable housing in downtown Madison

The Common Council introduced legislation that would allow developers to build additional housing units on top of existing downtown buildings.

The Common Council proposed legislation to change zoning ordinances that would encourage affordable housing development in downtown Madison at a meeting Tuesday.

The legislation would allow developers to build additional stories on top of existing downtown buildings. The current ordinance places a limit on both the number of stories and the height of buildings permitted in the downtown area. 

In return, at least half of the additional space must be allocated to constructing affordable housing units, and developers must maintain that affordability for 30 years. It would also require developers to rent the affordable housing units to households making 60% or less of area median income limits. 

The proposed changes would not allow developers to exceed current height limits imposed on downtown buildings. However, since the story heights of residential buildings are typically lower than those of commercial buildings, developers will still be able to add more residential units without violating the area’s height limits.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said the legislation would successfully balance the need to build more affordable housing with the desire to preserve the view of the Capitol building. 

“This is a win-win for meeting Madison’s housing needs,” Rhodes-Conway said. “Developers can build more housing in downtown Madison to help deal with our supply shortage while staying within existing height limits, and we can ensure that some of those added units will be affordable to households with more modest means.”

District 4 Alder Michael Verveer, who represents much of downtown Madison, said the proposed changes would address the difficulty developers face building affordable housing in the area. 

“High land costs and other considerations make development in the downtown difficult and affordable housing there even more so,” Verveer said. “A development bonus is another tool in the toolbox for adding more housing and more affordable housing downtown.” 

District 16 Alder Jael Currie said that the proposal would be a step in the right direction.

“We are not talking about large amounts of new affordable housing, but I think we’ll see developers more willing, and more able, to include affordable units because of this tool,” Currie said. 

The legislation will be sent to the Plan Commission on Feb. 27, and the Common Council is expected to vote on final approval March 9.

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Francesca Pica

Francesca Pica is the city news editor emeritus for The Daily Cardinal. She has covered multiple municipal elections and is a leading reporter on Madison labor issues. Additionally, she served as a summer intern for The Capital Times and currently serves as a WisPolitics intern. 

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