‘Affordable housing’ new city initiative

Staff Written Community

By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

In an effort to create more affordable housing options in the City of Madison, the Mayor and City Council unanimously adopted a new zoning ordinance which reduces the minimum square-footage for new houses built in certain areas of the city, as well as allowing criteria to reduce the minimum lot size for certain qualifying properties. 

According to City Planner Mollie Bogle, the zoning ordinance change will only apply to the Urban Redevelopment Area (URA), which includes the Canaan District and surrounding neighborhoods primarily north of the railroad tracks in Madison. The new allowances for smaller house sizes do not apply in any parts of the Historic District. 

“This is an important issue nationwide,” said Bogle of creating more opportunities for affordable housing. “I think it’s something we are hoping to help support because it’s relatively difficult to find affordable housing in this area.”

The new standards would allow for smaller houses to be built in URA-designated zones of the city. The minimum square-footage standard for two-bedroom houses has been reduced from 1000 square-feet to 950 square-feet. The minimum square-footage standard for three-bedroom houses from 1,200 square-feet to to 1,100 square-feet. Certain properties that fall inside the URA, can also quality for a lot-size reduction if they meet the city’s new criteria. 

“It’s a three-layer standard,” said Bogle. 

Property owners seeking a reduction in the minimum lot-size requirements must be within the designated URA, include a redevelopment plan encouraging affordable and workforce housing, and a new reduced lot size must be in line with the average lot area for a majority of lots along a developed block that below the minimum lot area. 

 “Basically, we take the average lot area along that block and and we allow for a reduction to the average lot size on that block,” explained Bogle. “A further 10 percent reduction in lot size is allowable for certain cases as an administrative variance.”

According to Bogle, the new zoning ordinance standards will pave the way for more affordable housing options. 

“This was specifically to allow for more affordable workforce housing where it was needed most,” said Bogle. 

Councilman Eric Joyce noted that the areas affected by these new standards are already dense areas and would not experience a dramatic change. 

“This didn’t appear to me to even approaching any character changes to Madison,” said Joyce before the vote. 

During the public hearing for the zoning ordinance, no one spoke in favor or in opposition of the measure.

The Madison Mayor and City Council voted unanimously to approve the new zoning ordinance adoption at the last regular meeting on Mar. 11. 

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