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At the February 2 Common Council meeting, Mayor Rhodes-Conway and Alders Heck, Lemmer, Furman, and Evers will introduce proposed zoning changes that will aim to increase both the number and types of multi-family housing being constructed in Madison. The proposed changes would make it easier to develop housing in most multi-family residential and mixed-use zoning districts across the City by streamlining the permit review process for projects that meet basic requirements.

Madison’s zoning code has historically provided for discretionary review of nearly all multi-family development by the City’s Plan Commission, and one emphasis of the proposed changes would be to allow more housing to be developed with an expedited review process if it meets code requirements. The current discretionary review process can add additional cost and uncertainty to projects. Removal of this barrier can speed up the development of small and medium scale housing projects, and make it easier for new, smaller-scale developers to invest in Madison. The proposed zoning changes will also allow for more density by opening up opportunities for additional dwelling units to be added to existing buildings and for more housing to be incorporated into developing and redeveloping parts of the City.

"These zoning changes are important components of comprehensive strategy to meet our housing needs, and particularly to support small and medium-scale buildings often described as "missing-middle" housing," said Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. "We need to diversify and expand housing choices for everybody in Madison and these zoning changes are important to enable the diverse housing options that we want."

When taken together, these changes would implement recommendations from the City’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted in 2018), the Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing (2019), and other adopted housing-related reports.

"By taking these steps to ease the production of new housing, we want to ensure that we keep up with growth and expand housing choices for everyone across the City, particularly for those with few choices today," noted Alder Patrick Heck of District 2. Alder Keith Furman of District 19 adds, "As the City continues to invest heavily in housing affordable for those with low-incomes, we also need a more predictable process to build more housing for our growing population."

Zoning ordinances across the country currently contain many barriers to the construction of multi-family housing, including outright prohibition in residential neighborhoods, low density requirements, and the application of generalized conditional use standards. These barriers often operate to keep low-income and, increasingly, middle-income earners from finding housing in or near neighborhoods of single-family homes, and were largely put in place decades ago in reaction to the abolishment of the racist practice of redlining. In conjunction with other ordinance changes under consideration related to cooperative housing and accessory dwelling units, these changes would start to remove barriers to multi-family housing that exist in Madison’s zoning code.

"The patterns of development we see in Madison today stem from past practices of redlining and exclusionary zoning," said Mayor Rhodes-Conway, "This ordinance change, and our housing work over all, is focused on undoing that past harm and creating greater opportunity in our community."

"These zoning changes are a key step to support the creation of more housing, a need that continues to be heard loud and clear from throughout the City of Madison," added District 3 Alder Lindsay Lemmer.

District 13 Alder Tag Evers also supports the ordinance noting, "The high price of housing in Madison comes down to simple economics. More people want to live here than we have places to put them. Updating our zoning code to increase multi-family housing is an essential step forward."