AHAA Endorsement: District 12

Posted April 1st, 2013 @ 8:22 AM by

Satya Rhodes-Conway is leaving the council leaving Larry Palm and Leslie Peterson running against each other.

Again, a disappointment with a sitting alder that did not fill out the questionaire – probably only the biggest disappointments next to Sue Ellingson (serves on the CDA) – Larry serves on the Homeless Issues Committee and also is allegedly the point person on the council on housing issues. Sigh . . . obviously, we went with Leslie Peterson, who again, showed us an understanding of housing issues both in her district and citywide.

1. Do we have an adequate supply of affordable housing in Madison? (“Affordable” means that the rent or mortgage does not exceed 30 percent of the household income.)
Would you advocate for increasing funding for the City Affordable Housing Trust Fund? What other ideas would you have to increase the supply?

Over 2000 people with families were turned away from shelters due to overcrowding and lack of funding in 2009, and, in 2011 we still only had about 300 transitional or supportive permanent housing units for families in Dane County. When confronted with this reality, and that 52% of renters are unable to afford a 2 bedroom unit at fair market rent, it is very easy to say, no, we do not have an adequate supply of affordable housing in Madison. The City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund has never reached the target amount of $10M and has been raided by the CDA for projects not within the original scope of the Fund. I believe that the City must continue its commitment to setting aside funds for affordable housing, and that there are many options for seeking increased funding. Only if these monies are restricted for building new units or making existing units more affordable for folks at 50% or lower of the median income can we be sure that the Affordable Housing Trust Fund is being put to good use.

In addition to specifically funding new and more affordable units from the AHTF, we can increase the supply of affordable housing through community benefits agreements for TIF projects and incentivizing the start-up of more co-housing and housing cooperatives. The City is able to support tenants by keeping rents affordable by requiring landlords to register their rental properties and regulating profit margins. Also ensuring that the true value of property is being accurately reflected will help lower mortgage rates and make the market more affordable.

2. Do you support the city facilitating the use of vacant properties for affordable housing, and if so, what do you think the city’s role should be? Would you support a vacant property registration ordinance?

Yes, I support the City facilitating vacant property use for affordable housing. In 2011, over a third of Dane County homes were in or near foreclosure, and the rate of evictions in Madison is keeping up with national trends. In unanimously passing the Housing as a Human Right resolution, the City acknowledged its responsibility to put or keep people in decent housing, and a vacant property registration ordinance would allow the city to monitor vacancies and work with public and private agencies to place individuals and families into available spaces. The City Council could create other ordinances, committees, and staff positions to allow homeless individuals and families to use vacant properties temporarily and possibly to facilitate a rent-to-own option.

3. The rental housing market in the Madison area is very tight right now, with a 2.07 percent vacancy rate reported for the last quarter of 2012. Do you think the city should get involved in planning to make sure there is enough housing for its residents, and if so, what should its role be?

Yes, it is the role of the City to ensure there is adequate housing for residents and the City Council should take a hands-on approach to addressing this human rights violation immediately. While continuing to convene community meetings and committees of public officials, the City must establish the homeless, formerly homeless and their advocates as leaders in every step of the process. The City should provide funding and staff for research and development, use bureaucratic leverage to make physical space as well as public and private dollars available, and prioritize affordable housing units in all zoning, city planning, and private development projects. I recognize that poverty and unemployment are systemic problems, and to address these, the City has a responsibility to ensure that these permanent and transitional housing units must be positioned in a way that provides access to transportation, child care, food and employment for the residents. I also recognize that publicly subsidized redevelopment and blight elimination, such as is being pursued in my district along Packers Avenue, risks a net reduction in low income housing and may displace lower income tenants. I am committed to seeing not only a net increase in low-income housing, but a Madison where people can raise their families with dignity in the neighborhoods where they grew up.

4. Given that both the city and county provide funding to homeless shelters, do you think the city/county should play a role in making sure the shelters are adequately operated and meet standards for service and habitability? Would you support efforts to increase transparency and accountability through an improved shelter grievance process?

Yes, it is clear that much is needed to be done to ensure that Madison shelters meet standards for habitability and are operated adequately. This means changes and updates to physical spaces, staff training, and daily protocol. The City/County shelter funding must be accompanied by clear processes to evaluate and critique if these public monies are being used effectively, so that any shortcomings in policy administration are quickly adjusted to meet the needs of clients and staff. Any Shelter services and the staff who work there must be trauma-informed and recovery-oriented. I support the recommendations from the People’s Affordable Housing Vision of a shelter monitoring committee and third-party grievance process for those seeking or receiving shelter services.

5. It is estimated that there are 300-400 unsheltered persons living in the Madison area. Shelter stays are subject to annual limits of 60-90 days, depending on the shelter. Would you support making a downtown City building available to unsheltered persons to allow them to sleep in safety and access 24 hour restrooms?

Yes, I would support making a downtown City building available for 24 hour restrooms and safe sleeping for unsheltered persons. A port-a-potty hidden in a parking ramp is not an adequate option, and the City of Madison can do better. While I don’t have a specific building in mind, I would look to the homeless community and their advocates for recommendations and to my colleagues in city government to ensure that the space is available on a long-term basis and to overcome obstacles in advance of opening up such a space. If this solution is not embraced by city/county officials, I would urge them to immediately develop another proposal to accommodate the needs of the unsheltered population 24 hours a day. Basic human services need to be provided to all residents of Madison, regardless of their economic position, housing arrangements or ability to provide adequately for themselves.

6. Would you support expanding local equal opportunity ordinances to prohibit discrimination in housing and public accommodations against person who have animals which a qualified professional has recommended as providing a beneficial service or support?

Yes, I believe that recommended support animals are critical to the daily functioning of the people who live and work with them, and that local ordinances to prohibit discrimination against these persons will eliminate obstacles to housing and public services. It is the responsibility of the Madison City Council to pass such an ordinance, and I would serve as a co-sponsor and strong advocate.

7. AHAA is part of a coalition that is working to advance housing as a human right. Are you aware of the Housing as a Human Right resolution that was passed by the Madison City Council? The resolution is available here: http://legistar.cityofmadison.com/detailreport/Reports/Temp/2720127421.pdf
Can we count on you to help implement the resolution? If so, what would be your priorities? Will you include implementation of the resolution in your priorities for the 2014 City Budget?

Yes, I am very familiar with the Housing as a Human Right resolution passed in Madison. AHAA can count on me to help implement the resolution, just as Occupy Madison has been able to count on me to be present, engaged, and truthful in solidarity with their struggle to live safely in peace and dignity. My priorities in addressing this human rights violation are to prevent foreclosures and evictions, decriminalize homelessness, and institutionalize foresight in city planning to give preference to development and zoning changes which increase the availability of affordable, accessible housing. Specifically in the 2014 city budget, I will recommend funding for effective case management (more and more qualified case managers and expanded services for the men’s shelter), accessible quality childcare, health and dental care for the homeless, advocacy staff and services to protect the legal rights of tenants, and programs focused on financial literacy and tenant education. In addition to these policy and financial responsibilities, I would like to see the City Council take an active role to improve relationships between landlords, tenants, and non-profit service organizations so that people stay in their homes and are connected to existing support services they need.

8. Our state legislature recently enacted 2011 Wisconsin Act 108, which attacks local ordinances expanding equal opportunity for lower income tenants. The law can be found here: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/related/acts/108. The legislature also enacted 2011 Wisconsin Act 143, which makes changes to landlord/tenant practices. It can be found here: http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/related/acts/143. If 2011 Acts 108 and/or 143 are repealed, will you support full restoration of our fair housing and tenant protection ordinances?

It is a travesty that the state legislature rolled the clock back on equal opportunity for low-income tenants and restrictions on landlords. These fair housing and tenant protection ordinances should be fully restored at the first possible opportunity and then expanded. I support the recommendation of the People’s Affordable Housing Vision to empower the city attorney to field tenant complaints regarding lease violations and to use the complaints to study the feasibility of a housing court. I also support its recommendation for a landlord registration ordinance.

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