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Wisconsin Receives Over $1M To Help People With Disabilities Get Affordable Housing

Funding Will Benefit People From Chippewa To Racine Counties

Satya Rhodes-Conway, the mayor of Madison, stands speaking at a podium in the lobby of a government building.
Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway speaks about new federal affordable housing funding for people with disabilities at a press conference in Madison on Nov. 25, 2019. Miranda Suarez/WPR

Wisconsin will get more than $1 million to provide affordable housing to people with disabilities, officials announced Monday at a press conference in Madison.

Five housing authorities across the state will get a total of 180 extra vouchers for Section 8 — a federal rent-assistance program.

The Dane County Housing Authority will get the most vouchers, at 60. The Madison Community Development Authority, as well as the housing authorities of Eau Claire, Racine and Chippewa counties, will split the rest.

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Madison and Dane County officials say the area is in a housing crisis. Home values and median rent in Madison have been on the rise for years, according to a city report from August. And a University of Wisconsin-Madison study found about a quarter of all people in Dane County spend more than half their income on rent.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the housing problem is the result of income inequality combined with a growing economy.

“If you’re part of that economy that’s taking off, you’re doing quite well,” he said. “If you’re not part of that economy, you’re left behind.”

The Madison Community Development Authority will use part of its new funding to move people who formerly experienced homelessness from housing with services into independent homes.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said the effect will be widespread.

“As people move from permanent supportive housing, this means that we can then move others into that permanent supportive housing,” she said. “The benefit is not just to the individuals that receive the vouchers, but it reverberates throughout the community to help more and more people.”

The Dane County Housing Authority plans to give its vouchers to eligible families on its waitlist first, said Rob Dicke, the authority’s executive director. Then it will work with people with disabilities who live in institutions and want to live independently, as well as people with disabilities who are currently homeless.

There’s huge demand for affordable housing in general, said Dicke. When his authority last opened its Section 8 wait list, they hoped to put 1,500 families on it.

“We received 2,212 applications in about four-and-a-half hours,” Dicke said. “Our waitlist has been closed for over four years now. It is coming down to the point where we’ll likely open it next year, but the demand far exceeds the supply.”

Madison Community Development Authority Deputy Director Deborah Rakowski said Madison’s waitlist stands at about 1,500 people.

The median home price in Wisconsin this year is $198,000 so far, according to data from the Wisconsin Realtors Association. That’s up $30,000 since 2007 and more than $65,000 since a low point in 2011.