On Tuesday, the Common Council adopted legislation to encourage the development of more affordable housing downtown. Developers can now add additional stories to new buildings proposed in the downtown area if at least half of the added space will be for affordable housing. The additional stories must fall within downtown height limits that protect the view of the State Capitol.

The downtown zoning code includes both a maximum building height and a maximum number of stories in a building. The number of stories correlates closely with height limits in commercial buildings, but leaves some room on the table for residential buildings that normally have shorter floor heights than commercial buildings. The result is that residential buildings rarely reach the height limits. That is changing now with the adoption of the affordable housing “floor bonus.”

Developers agreeing to the incentive must use at least half of the additional space for affordable housing and maintain that affordability for at least thirty years. In cases where a developer is also receiving City financial assistance, the number of additional units required to earn the bonus stories would be negotiated with the City. This incentive may generate more general affordable housing options, including some for students, downtown.

“This is a win-win program,” said Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. “It helps us build more housing downtown and ensures that at least half of the added housing from the bonus floors is affordable. This is another tool in our toolbox to ensure everybody has housing options in Madison.”

District 4 Alder Mike Verveer agrees, stating “This bonus may help overcome the challenges, like high downtown land costs and others, that have held some developers back from including affordable units. I hope to see more developers use this tool to increase affordable housing downtown.”

This legislation was supported by sponsoring Alders Patrick Heck, Erik Paulson, Mike Verveer and Jael Currie, along with Mayor Rhodes-Conway.


  • Christie Baumel, (608) 266-4611
Mayor's Office