While Evanston has struggled to produce a handful of affordable housing units in recent years, Madison, Wisconsin, has spent the past five years carrying out a $20 million plan with a goal of producing more than 1,000 units of affordable housing.

The Madison Capitol Times reports that, as the home of the University of Wisconsin starts the sixth year of its affordable housing effort, it:

  • Has completed 522 affordable housing units in nine developments.
  • Has 104 more under construction in two developments.
  • Has 214 more approved and ready to begin construction in three developments this year.
  • Has five more projects with 368 additional units in the application and approval process.

The Madison city funding is used to leverage federal low income housing tax credits. About 9 percent of the total project funding has been provided by the city. The cost per affordable unit to the city has been just under $21,000 and the average total cost per unit has been about $223,000.

The Madison developments have generally been low-rise apartment complexes and, in addition to the affordable units, most projects have included an addtional 20 percent or so market-rate units.

Madison also has a well-developed request-for-proposals process by which developers each month can submit project proposals for consideration.

Evanston, of course, only has about 30 percent as many residents as Madison, and Madison has about 10 times as much land area as Evanston — so its population density is only a third that of Evanston

Median household incomes and housing prices are considerably higher here than in Madison.

Those factors may create some barriers to duplicating the Madison model in Evanston.

But Evanston, after rejecting funding for one project that might fit the Madison model in 2017, now is scheduled to consider a new one Monday night.

Evanston aldermen may want to take a closer look at the Madison model as they continue their focus on affordable housing issues this year.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Key point: Evanston’s affordable housing supply is fine
    It is not clear why the city is spending so much time on this issue. The city has plenty of affordable housing. We go way beyond the state’s Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act requirements.

    Getting involved in the private housing market when the city is in compliance with state laws and has a whole host of other problems is ridiculous.

    1. Agreed…. completely.

      Though, other motives of city council members have prompted them to hound dog this issue any way with zero expertise in urban planning and, again, with zero regard for the tax paying lower middle class here.  But the damage to our lower end condo market has already been done in full.  Those years of missed opportunity for condo owners and for small condo first time buyers can not be reversed.  The city council won in Evanston.  Like Richard G. Hatcher won in Gary.  Like Nero won in Rome.     

  2. Hmmmm

    Lets see, Madison has somehow figured out how to build 626 units of affordable housing at under $21K a unit.  Evanstons City manager, staff & council put together a package where they buy a 2 flat for affordable housing that cost taxpayers $579K.   Hmmmm.      

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