Affordable, Safe Housing

 

Housing is a right — everyone is entitled to an affordable and safe place to call home. Lack of access to affordable housing and homelessness are serious issues facing our district and our state. Even for those who have stable housing, many spend a disproportionate amount on housing costs, which have risen much faster than wages or inflation in the Madison area.

The housing crisis disproportionately affects communities of color, who experience higher rates of evictions & homelessness, and lower rates of homeownership. In Dane County, according to a Wisconsin State Journal study, Black people make up 53 percent of those seeking services for homelessness, despite only making up 5.1% of the population.

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Our city is growing rapidly, and with that, the cost of renting and buying a home is skyrocketing. As it gets more and more expensive to live here, families that have called Madison home for generations are pushed out. I want to make sure that the people who work in our community can also afford to live here.

As State Senator, I will fight to address the housing and homelessness crisis, eliminate the racial inequities generations in the making, and help increase the supply of affordable housing and housing maintenance funds. Addressing affordable housing at all levels requires funding, legislative changes, and cooperation between public and private entities at the local, state, and federal levels.

Expand affordable and sustainable housing options. To increase the number of affordable housing units available and ensure that as the City of Madison grows without displacement, I will advance the following proposals:

  • Increase funds to provide direct rent relief, especially for low-income families, people with mental and behavioral health needs, and those at risk of homelessness.

  • Offer incentives to developers who build integrated, multi-income, equitable affordable housing units, and restore tax credits for historic preservation and adaptive reuse to convert obsolete buildings into housing.

  • Expand grants and forgivable loan programs for first time or first generation homebuyers, with targeted outreach to communities with disproportionately low rates of homeownership

  • Make sure that all housing developments are environmentally sustainable, ADA compliant, and don’t have negative historical or cultural consequences on communities.

  • Prioritize funding programs that maintain residents in their neighborhoods and communities and that limit displacement and gentrification.

Protect tenants & homebuyers. Madison is filled with dilapidated housing stock and landlords/property managers whose procedures put renters at a disadvantage, especially students and low income renters.

  • Fund housing counseling programs like the Tenant Resource Center that provide education, training, and technical assistance to prospective and current homeowners and renters.

  • Pass legislation guaranteeing a right to legal counsel for tenants in eviction cases and other housing legal disputes.

  • Repeal the recent anti-tenant laws that have been pushed by Republican legislators in recent sessions, and restore the ability of local governments to pass additional protections for renters.

  • Hold mortgage brokers and lenders accountable for verbal statements, marketing materials, and other information that has been used to mislead potential borrowers. Mandate clear communication standards between lenders and borrowers, including referring predatory lending practices to state and federal regulators.

Prevent homelessness and protect people experiencing homelessness. Research demonstrates that a “Housing First” approach is most effective at reducing homelessness and ensuring that people can access the services they need, from healthcare, vocational support, mental/behavioral health services, legal assistance, and other services. Preventing a family from becoming homeless is often a matter of a few hundred dollars at the right time – and it’s much less expensive and disruptive than trying to rehouse a family that has been displaced. I will do the following to directly address homelessness and protect homeless populations:

  • Contract with hotels and other housing providers to temporarily house individuals and families who are or are at risk of becoming homeless.

  • Make maintaining and providing housing the first line of support for families in need – stable housing is necessary for kids to learn, parents to work and obtain child care, people to access public services, etc.

  • Build more public housing units, not segregated or separate from communities, but in intentional communities that emphasize income and racial diversity and shared amenities.

  • Provide a right to legal counsel for defendants in all eviction proceedings.
  • Provide funding to communities to incentivize zoning changes that allow for more creative housing solutions, such as increased density, eliminating “single family only” districts, cooperative housing, tiny home communities, and accessory dwelling units.

  • End discrimination against persons experiencing homelessness and eliminate laws that make it harder for people to find a safe place to live

  • Co-locate support services in buildings and communities tailored to resident needs – health care, substance use disorder treatment, job training, transportation, veterans services, etc.

  • Fully fund safe housing for at-risk youth, especially LGBTQIA+ young people, who experience homelessness, depression, and suicide at higher rates due to abusive and unsupportive families.

  • Ensure safe housing for people who have been incarcerated, so they are able to reintegrate into society and can rebuild their lives free from violence and housing insecurity.

  • Support cooperative purchasing — enabling tenants, manufactured home owners, and others to band together to purchase the housing/land where they reside. Create a revolving loan fund that groups of tenants may access that enable them to make a qualified offer to purchase of their landlord.

To stop the housing crisis, we must build a more equitable society. Homelessness cannot be separated from poverty, which is why, in addition to creating opportunities for affordable housing and preventing evictions and foreclosures, we need to address inequality.

  • Pay workers a living wage, with local governments able to set an appropriate rate that reflects the cost of living and the cost of housing in their communities.
  • Rebuild the social safety net. Healthcare, food, education, transportation — all of these are essential. We need to reinvest in these necessary public components that allow people to thrive and have a just society.