A report analyzing median income and rents in Madison census tracts indicated typical black households could only afford the typical rent in two census tracts: one in North Madison and one in South Madison (above).

According to a draft report from the Madison Community Development Division, a typical black household in the city is far more limited than a white household in where it can generally afford to rent an apartment.

And affordable housing options for black households actually decreased over the last few years, said Linette Rhodes, the city’s interim community development supervisor.

"From 2010 to 2016, if you look at race, black households have had a loss of choice on where to find affordable housing units compared to other races," she said in an email.

The report, which looks at barriers to fair housing choice in the city, was completed with assistance from several city departments.

As a condition of some of its federal funding, the city of Madison is periodically required to write an Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice report. This year, the city wanted to focus on analyzing race, Rhodes said.


A summary of the report defines fair housing opportunity as the ability for protected classes to “have the same access to geographic opportunity within both public and private markets.”

Part of the report looks at income and local rents to analyze where households of different races can afford to live.

The report breaks down the city by census tracts. It then shows in which tracts various races could afford a “typical” rental, meaning they could afford 50% or more of the units in a tract. “Afford” in this case means spending 30% or less of their income on rent.

In 2016, a household earning the white median income could afford housing costs of $1,497 a month. That meant they could afford the typical rent in every census tract except two: Liberty Place Neighborhood and one in the central isthmus, which the summary notes “likely reflects increased luxury student housing development.”

That same year, a household earning the black median income could afford housing costs of just $738. That meant those households could only afford the typical rent in two census tracts: one in North Madison and one in South Madison.

“For Households of Color, less of Madison is accessible for housing – the definition of an Impediment to Fair Housing Choice,” the report summary said.

This was surprising because it was a significant change from 2010, Rhodes said.

White households could afford almost all the same areas in 2010 as 2016, showing that increasing incomes were growing to match increasing rents, the report said.

But the black median income was actually higher in 2010, which meant black households could typically afford more areas in 2010 than 2016, including areas “through South Madison, Near-East and North Madison, Spring Harbor, and Eagle Heights.”

“As we talk about our economy ... our employment rates and income and economic mobility for each race is not growing at the same pace,” Rhodes said.

Madison Latino residents also saw a decrease in areas with generally affordable housing options from 2010 to 2016, "although not to the extreme limitation of affordability for Black Households in 2016," the report summary said. 

The report notes that because education affects earnings, it indirectly affects housing. For example, the median income for those with bachelor’s degrees is over $14,000 higher than those without one, opening up more rental options across the city for college graduates.

In Madison, there are no “generally affordable” areas for residents with a high school diploma or less. White residents in Madison are almost three times as likely to have a college degree as black residents and almost twice as likely as Latinos. The report also notes that African-American high school graduation rates are much lower than rates of white students.

The report summary also looked into disparities in home ownership: white households are 2.5 times more likely to own a house than Black and Latino households. It found that over 2007 to 2016, black Madison residents were denied mortgages three times as often as white residents.

And then there are disparities in nontraditional dwellings like jails and homeless shelters, as well as those who aren’t sheltered at all.

As another city report showed, African-American individuals in families are 27 times more likely to be homeless than white individuals in families. And while Dane County’s population is 5% black, black people make up almost 40% of Dane County Jail system bookings.


The report identified 41 impediments to fair housing choice, including a lack of affordable 3-bedroom units in neighborhoods with larger populations of color and a lack of accessible units for those with disabilities or the aging.

It then outlines a few dozen strategies to combat these impediments, and the recommendations affect at least eight city agencies, Rhodes said.

The report is slated for final approval by the City Council on July 16. Before that, it will be sent to several city committees to determine which strategies to prioritize, Rhodes said.

“This really helps to tell the story of the strategies that the city needs to move forward with making sure all of our departments are working together in housing,” Rhodes said.

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