The city of Madison last week announced the launch of a new monetary effort to help owners of rental housing upgrade units to local housing standards.
The “Rental Rehab Program” provides assistance for property owners to make major repairs to their properties, including implementing energy efficiency upgrades and ensuring compliance with building codes and regulatory standards, according to a Feb. 5 news release.
“While we work [to] bring more housing to Madison, we must also take care of what we have — not only to preserve our housing supply, but also because all Madison residents deserve to live in safe and decent housing,” Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in the release. “The Rental Rehab Program is another tool toward that goal.”.
The program extends financial assistance to property owners who rent units at fair market rates. Owners gain access to low-interest loans of up to $200,000 for updating or improving units, according to the release.
The amount of funding available to property owners is dependent on the property’s size. Buildings with one to six units are eligible for loans up to $75,000, buildings with seven to 12 units can secure up to $150,000, and buildings with 13 to 20 units qualify for loans up to $200,000.
Madison Property Management did not immediately return a request for comment.
The city announced it will waive application fees and provide more favorable loan conditions during the program's first year to properties within designated neighborhoods to stimulate participation from property owners. This includes properties identified within north, south and southwest neighborhood boundaries.
City leaders said they hope the program will help mitigate the risk of safety hazards and extend the life of aging buildings as a continued influx of new residents fuels Madison’s red-hot rental market.
“The rental rehab program reflects the City’s unwavering commitment to thriving and inclusive communities,” Community Development Director Jim O’Keefe said in the release.
District 8 Ald. MGR Govindarajan said the rental rehabilitation program focuses on smaller owners who don't typically make enough pure profit from rent to make all the property upgrades necessary.
“I think this program will definitely have a strong impact,” Govindarajan told The Daily Cardinal. “It's targeted at smaller rental owners, those who own single-family homes or townhomes and rent it out, it's not your larger developers/management companies.”
Yet, students still report issues with larger property companies. University of Wisconsin-Madison student Grace Kachelski moved into a Madison Property Management Inc. property in August 2023 and immediately noticed management’s slow response to issues with her unit.
“When we first moved in, there were a lot of issues that we had to immediately contact them about,” Kachelski said. “There was a huge crack in my bathroom’s bathtub, and they didn't do anything about that for a while.”
Kachelski said her landlord’s response time typically exceeds 48 hours for addressing issues. She said they took a week to respond to her last message regarding a wifi outage.
The property company manages 6,000 rental units across 1,300 properties for over 500 landlords, according to its website.
“Everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home. By partnering with owners of smaller rental properties, we can improve housing conditions in our city today and have a lasting impact on the quality of life in Madison neighborhoods,” O’Keefe said.