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Neighborhood redevelopment spurs ownership debate

(Map courtesy of the city of Madison)

(Map courtesy of the city of Madison)

By Paul Snyder

Madison’s shift toward owner-occupied housing in redeveloping the Allied Drive neighborhood threatens to drive out area residents who rely on rentals.

“Most people in this area have been renters all their lives, and having more rental units would make it more affordable to residents here,” said Barry Hayes, treasurer of Allied Dunn’s Marsh Neighborhood Association.

But the city now is starting the second phase of Allied Drive’s redevelopment, which focuses on building single-family homes and promoting owner occupancy, said Mark Olinger, executive director of Madison’s Community Development Authority.

The first phase of the project targeted rentals with five new apartment buildings with 49 units.

“At some point, WHEDA doesn’t want to saturate the neighborhood with low-income housing credits,” Olinger said of tax credits the city received from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. “The reason they signed on is because we promised there would be a strong ownership component to that project.”

The city in 2006 began redeveloping the Allied Drive neighborhood, which Olinger said eventually could include 100 new rental and owner-occupied housing units in an area that has fallen victim to a transient population and a high crime rate. ?The second phase of Allied Drive’s redevelopment will include 25 lots for single-family homes, Olinger said. The city last week held a design workshop for the homes, and he said the houses will be built as the CDA sells the lots.

It’s a good concept, Hayes said, and could stabilize a neighborhood with a lot of residential turnover.

“But that’s if it works out well,” he said. “We all have to sit back and take a look at how this is going to play out.”

Madison Alderman Brian Solomon, who represents the neighborhood, said the city is taking a risk trying to sell housing in a shaky economy, and the second phase could take many years.

While that happens, Hayes said, longtime Allied residents simply are moving to other neighborhoods in the city, and that could continue as the city shifts to future phases of the project.

After the second phase is finished, Olinger said, the city still will have three residential lots on which to build town houses or other owner-occupied units. He said the original plan was to build starter condos, but the tanking condo market snuffed out that idea.

Nevertheless, Olinger said, the CDA wants the third phase to include more owner-occupied housing.

“We still have time to figure out what we need to do,” he said. “Who knows? We might see an uptick in owner-occupied housing.”

If that doesn’t happen, Olinger said, the city can afford to wait on the third phase until the economy stabilizes.

“The land’s already bought,” he said. “We don’t want to rush in and make a mistake.”?If the city waits, the neighborhood likely will lobby for more rental units, Hayes said.

But Solomon said those efforts might not go far.

“I understand that additional rental would make the area more affordable and accessible, but if the CDA’s not going to give, I would prefer to see some outside-the-box thinking,” he said. “Maybe we could build some kind of work force development or training center, maybe a business incubator.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be an argument about housing and ownership.”

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