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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Student Housing

Students face a lack of available and affordable housing as UW-Madison ponders solutions with private developers

Continued informational services, additional housing units and continued plans of working with private developers are among UW-Madison’s plans to increase the availability and affordability of off-campus housing.

Madison’s housing market continues to experience a lack of unit availability and affordability as the University of Wisconsin-Madison targets student difficulties when searching for off-campus housing. 

The university’s primary approach to this ongoing issue involved establishing a new Off-Campus Housing Services office in April 2022 to inform students navigating the off-campus housing market. 

However, short-term plans of providing additional housing assistance have been few, despite the university admitting its largest freshman class ever in 2022. 

“There's no doubt that the external market for rental housing continues to be challenging, and our degree of control over that external market is limited,” Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said in a Sept. 27 address to the Associated Students of Madison, UW-Madison’s student government. “It is not ours, but we have taken some steps to try to make some difference.”

Sara Browne, a UW-Madison junior and landscape and urban studies major, said weighing location, her budget and “the compromises that follow” varies yearly. 

“It’s definitely been stressful,” Browne said. “I’ve always had a place to live, which I’m grateful for. But it hasn’t been the most pleasant experience.”

In addition to having the new Off-Campus Housing Services office serve as an informational resource, Mnookin said UW-Madison is “trying to find ways to work with private developers to create opportunities.”

University Communications did not provide The Daily Cardinal with information on any new developments regarding collaborating with private developers toward increasing housing availability and affordability since the Sept. 27 ASM meeting.

However, UW-Madison’s Office of Student Financial Aid is set to play an intermediary role in Chicago-based developer Core Spaces’ student affordable housing program at ōLiv Madison, an apartment set to house its first tenants in fall 2024 as 339 W. Gorham St.

The program, which is primarily a partnership between Core Spaces and the city of Madison, plans to implement a program where 10% of OLiv Madison’s beds will be offered at a 40% discount from market rate, according to an Aug. 16 press release. 

ōLiv Madison will have 112 beds available for students who qualify for the program, according to the release. UW-Madison students can contact the Office of Student Financial Aid to release their eligibility to ōLiv for review.

John Lucas, assistant vice chancellor of communications, told The Daily Cardinal that UW-Madison further developed an electronic form in students’ MyUW student portal to authorize certification of their eligibility for reduced cost housing. Students can request their information to be emailed directly to a chosen landlord or developer. 

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UW-Madison student and District 8 Ald. MGR Govindarajan has initiated discussions with the university on how the ongoing off-campus housing crisis can be approached.

“I've initiated with the university and we've been engaging a little bit, but we're still trying to figure out how to address the problem,” Govindarajan said. “The university will be building a couple housing units on the West Campus Plan, but that's something that will take place over the next decade.”

In addition to working with UW-Madison, Govindarajan has approached increasing off-campus housing availability by advocating for the increasing of building height limits within District 8.

“I currently have a proposal out right now that proposes increasing the building height limits within my district to about 12 stories, which will allow developers to build a lot more in that area. Currently, most of the homes in that area are about three to four stories,” Govindarajan said. 

While Govindarajan said his proposal will contribute to solving the problem, he maintained more needs to be done to continually tackle the housing crisis.

“Student housing is the city's problem. The mindset that the university can deal with students is no longer plausible (and has never been),” Govindarajan said in a blog post about the height limit changes. 

Browne provided further insight on how UW-Madison could approach alternatives to ensuring housing access for students leaving the dorms. 

“If the university was to build living structures, such as those apartment-style building units that I know a lot of other college campuses provide, that’s my first thought for sure,” Browne said. 

While availability and affordability prove difficult challenges for students as they navigate Madison’s housing market, much of this reflects Madison’s growth as a city, according to Govindarajan.

“Madison is a very fast growing city. We're expected to have more people than Milwaukee by 2050. So it's going to take a lot to stabilize rent,” he said. 

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