Creating affordable housing as the price of rent outpaces wage increases
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The average renter in Dane County is paying $300 more per month in 2022 than in 2010, according to the Dane County Housing Advisory Committee.
With the price of rent outpacing wage increases, more and more people in Dane County are seeking affordable housing.
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban development, affordable housing is defined as housing in which the occupant is paying no more than 30% of gross income for housing costs, including utilities.
A Dane County Housing Needs Assessment found that there are more than 13,000 renters in the county who are paying more than 50% of their monthly income on housing.
There are a number of apartment complexes within Dane County that provide affordable housing, but they are often full either before or right after opening.
Ella Apartments in Madison, for example, opened in June of 2022 and all but two of the 135 units have been leased. The complex chares the same name and East Washington Address as the now-closed Ella’s Deli. Sarah Neujahr is one of the developers of Ella Apartments and says every unit offers an affordable rent program which means the units are priced based on the Area Median Income, which for Dane County is around $75,000, according to the US Census Bureau.
“The incomes that people can make to live here are between 20,000 and roughly 58,000,” Neujahr said. “We have apartments that range from one bedrooms, that range from $450 a month to $1,300 a month. And there’s different income qualifiers for those units.”
Brian Sweeney is the Development Director of Cohen-Esrey Development Group. The Group is building an affordable housing complex called “The Landing” for people 55 and older in Sun Prairie.
“They’re young, active seniors and they’re working, a lot of them are working. So, this is a workforce housing project too,” Sweeney said.
As a developer of affordable housing across the country, Sweeney relies on Tax Increment Financing or TIF to fund the projects.
“There’s a contract between the state and the developer for the developer to commit to 30 years of keeping these projects affordable,” Sweeney said. “And in return we receive tax credits and it’s a competitive process and tax credits becomes equity in the project and helps us build or finance the project.”
But he also said times are tough, and tax credits don’t always cut it.
“Right now, we face an economic challenge. Interest rates have just skyrocketed, construction costs have skyrocketed, and today is even more challenging than it was two years ago,” Sweeney said.
Two years ago, Madison renter Terra Wood-Taylor could never imagine living in an affordable apartment. She moved into the Ella Apartments this summer after coming back to her hometown from California. While looking for a place to live she was surprised that many of the apartments in Madison were not in her price range. Wood-Taylor said the Affordable Rent Program at the Ella Apartments have allowed her to live without roommates and without multiple jobs for the first time in her life.
“I have gone through a lot of stuff in my life just like everyone else. But now at least I know. I have something that I can be proud of. I have created a home for myself,” Wood-Taylor said.
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