How Much Affordable Housing Do We Need?

Posted February 26th, 2013 @ 8:35 AM by

And how much would it cost? I’ve been working on some numbers and I am dying for someone to tell me I am wrong! Please.

Yesterday I was at the Homeless Issues Committee where they came to the logical conclusion that the real issue is, affordable housing. Yeah, duh. Been screaming it from the roof tops since 1996 and not much has happened – and it won’t because of what it takes to make it happen. So, mean time, we need services for those that don’t have affordable housing.

How many units do we need?
During the Affordable Housing Action Alliance endorsement interviews, one alder told me that the city staff say we need 500 – 600 units. I asked the alder if they meant 5,000 – 6,000 and he said no. I nearly fell of my chair and I’m pretty sure I accidentally snorted! I pointed out that recently the people without homes counted for the HUD required point in time count done on January 31st of this year was 831 homeless persons or a 45% increase in the last two years – and that doesn’t count a lot of people that were not counted on the street and who are doubled and now even tripled up with families and friends. So they are in la-la land if that is really what they said.

The Housing information from the census gives us a wildly different number if we look at the numbers of people who are living in unaffordable housing. Again, HUD has a definition that you are not supposed to pay more than 30% of your income towards your housing costs. For renters alone, the numbers of people who are paying more than 30% of their income towards their housing costs it is over 25,000 households in the City of Madison or over half the renters in Madison and 36,000 in Dane County. (Sorry, I don’t have data sets that actually match up incomes with rents – they don’t provide that information matched up.)

MADISON (Its the very last piece of data at the bottom of the information)
Occupied units paying rent (excluding units where GRAPI cannot be computed) 46,610
Less than 15.0 percent 5,184 11.1%
15.0 to 19.9 percent 5,418 11.6%
20.0 to 24.9 percent 5,713 12.3%
25.0 to 29.9 percent 5,190 11.1%
30.0 to 34.9 percent 3,837 8.2%
35.0 percent or more 21,268 45.6%

Not computed 1,790

Occupied units paying rent (excluding units where GRAPI cannot be computed) 74,748
Less than 15.0 percent 8,688 11.6%
15.0 to 19.9 percent 10,011 13.4%
20.0 to 24.9 percent 10,297 13.8%
25.0 to 29.9 percent 8,753 11.7%
30.0 to 34.9 percent 6,195 8.3%
35.0 percent or more 30,804 41.2%

Not computed 2,840

How many units do we build per year?
So, many people think the market should just fix the issue . . . yeah, that hasn’t worked for the last 20 years and it won’t help moving forward. I got numbers of building permits issued in Madison for units in the past 5 years. They don’t keep data by ownership, but here are the number of units built that have 5 or more units that are not condos.

5 or More Family Residence
2008 – 599
2009 – 502
2010 – 352
2011 – 409
2012 – 1,068

Given the number of units we need, even if every single unit we built was affordable it would be years before we caught up – even if we only build affordable housing for 25% of the people who are paying unaffordable rents it would take 6 – 12 years.

What are we already doing?
Currently, the non-profits are housing people in affordable housing that would probably not show up in the census as people paying more than 30% of their income towards their rent. They currently are housing people as follows:
Transitional Housing Units (Less than 2 years) = 187 (121 – single adults, 66 – families, 0 – unaccompanied youth)
Permanent Supportive Housing = 576 (420 – single adults, 156 – families, 0 – unaccompanied youth)

Additionally, the CDA has the following units or subsidized units.
Public Housing – 742 households – 315 units for families, 427 units over the age of 50 or for people with disabilities.
Section 8 – 1600 households

The Dane County Housing Authority has the following housing available
Public Housing – 102
Section 8 – 1160

That appears to be about 3625 units.

What is the market doing?
The Constellation that is being built on E Washington Ave is starting to put its units out for rent for August 1st. Check out the costs. (I didn’t do this, a neighbor did)
studio – $895
1 bedroom for $1265
2 bedroom for $1495
3 bedroom for $2165


Other depressing numbers
To demonstrate what is going on in this economy.

Food Stamp recipients in Dane County in 2008 = 22,804. In Dec 2012 = 52,355. 130% increase. (Sorry, no link, got that number from the CDBG packet for the county meeting – but it is not available on line and extremely large due to awful scanning)

So, the committee talked about the possibility of just subsidizing people’s rent ($500 per month) instead of building units for the short term ($60,000 – 70,000 per unit). This elicited stories from people on the committee that emphasize the issue with the change in laws that occurred during the last legislative session and the low vacancy rate (currently 2.07%).
vacancy rate 4th quarter 2012

Essentially the group told stories about people with money that still took 3 months to find housing. People who got vouchers that had to turn them back. People with conviction records 17 – 20 years old that were being denied housing. etc. etc. etc. So, they concluded that subsidies wouldn’t help if people can’t find housing anyways and that building housing was better for the long term because the units will remain affordable.

Lets make the math easy and pick a reasonable number, somewhere between 831 and 36,000. How about a modest number of 1,000 units?

1,000 units x 500 per month subsidy x 12 months = $6,000,000 annually plus staffing costs.
1,000 units x $65,000 per unit = $65,000,000 plus staffing costs

If you split that last number over 10 years, we end up around $6.5M instead of $6M, and it will take longer.

$6 Million Dollar Solution
How many elected officials would spend $6M annually to help house 1,000 people?

If not that, then what?

And we go round . . . and round . . . and round . . . and round . . .

And people still don’t have affordable housing as the finger pointing between the city and county continues, the elected officials point in the other direction when talking about issues (With homelessness and services, housing is the real issue. With housing, jobs and wages are the real issue. With wages, economic development is more important and a better investment.) And people get tired of all my depressing blog posts. But nothing is happening.

Categories: | Dane | Madison | Media

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