A Madison housing committee has identified increasing access to senior housing and providing incentives for home ownership as important goals.
The Housing Strategy committee has been releasing reports on the status of housing in Madison since its creation in 2012, including last fall’s market rate rental report, which claimed the city needs to build 1,000 new units per year, indefinitely, to meet demand.
According to a new report presented at the city’s Housing Strategy Committee Thursday night, the city also needs to begin work to ensure the availability of affordable senior housing throughout the city.
The report comes two years after the city’s Demographic Change Working Group issued a report identifying health risks and isolation caused by limited housing and transportation for seniors as one of the primary challenges facing Madison.
“The senior housing market isn’t that dramatically different from the rest of our housing market. A good portion of people are housing cost burdened,” said Matt Wachter, the city's housing initiatives specialist.
Cost burdened households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.
Wachter also pointed out that, for seniors in particular, low-income households are often grappling with disability concerns.
“There are definitely limited options for that group of people,” Wachter said.
As such, the report recommends the addition of a senior housing track in the city’s Affordable Housing Fund, which was introduced by Mayor Paul Soglin in 2014. The fund aims to create between 750 and 1,000 affordable units in five years.
In addition to encouraging the city to locate additional senior housing options in transit and service-rich locations, the report also recommends the city increase efforts to enable seniors to continue living in their current households.
According to an AARP survey cited in the report, 73 percent of seniors had a strong preference for continuing to live in their current residences as long as possible.
The city can help seniors continue living in their homes by facilitating delivery of services by neighborhood associations and non-profits, reorienting transportation to enhance service to areas where seniors live and expanding existing city financing programs that aid seniors in retrofitting their homes for accessibility, the report said.
Though Madison has a smaller percentage of baby boomers in its population than surrounding areas — about 15 percent in Madison, compared to about 17 percent in Dane County — there is still an expectation that the population’s evolving needs will have an effect on the local housing market.
The Housing Strategy committee also looked at an early draft of a report on market rate ownership on Thursday night.
The preliminary takeaway of that report, according to Wachter, is that the city needs to work on providing incentives for home ownership programs for millennials.
According to city statistics, Madison became a majority renter community in 2011.
“There’s definitely a large boom in millennial households, and they are overwhelmingly renters — that’s all real,” Wachter said. “But that’s not to say there aren’t younger households, first time home buyers who want to enter the market.”
The local market has not delivered an adequate supply of affordable, entry-level homes in neighborhoods that appeal to millennials, which have plenty of amenities within walking distance, the draft report reads.
Wachter said the city could roll out efforts to make home ownership more attractive to millennials by offering funds to help with home rehabilitation projects in neighborhoods with older homes for sale and encouraging development of housing options like rowhouses, townhouses and duplexes, which he contends Madison has fewer of than other cities.