Budget Spotlight: Housing and Community Services
Last week, the Madison Common Council approved the 2021 Capital and Operating Budgets. This was a challenging budget year due to the combination of a $16 million dollar deficit and a growing need for community services – both due to the pandemic. Ultimate, we balanced a budget that invests in housing, homelessness, youth jobs, violence prevention, and an alternative crisis response team for behavioral health emergencies.
Last week I posted a blog discussing some of the equitable economic development programs I was excited about in the proposed budget. I am pleased to report that those programs are in the final adopted budget.
This week, I want to highlight some programs related to housing and community services that are critically important to our residents – especially now. Here are some of the ways this budget helps meet our critical community needs.
Affordable Housing: Our community continues to face a shortage of housing generally and a shortage of housing at affordable price points. A major way that the City helps create more affordable housing is through financial support to housing developers to build affordable housing units. This year, we continued to increase support to over $6.0 million annually, compared to just $4.5 million annually two years ago. These increases were championed by me and Alder Tag Evers, with support from many other Alders. I thank everybody for their support in growing these critical funds.
This budget will also expand the City’s support for affordable housing in other ways. It will add to City programs that support homeownership – one of the most important mechanisms for growing household wealth – and we will focus on strategies that help increase homeownership rates for people of color, which lag far behind those of white households. The budget will also increase resources available to low- and moderate-income families to make needed repairs or improvements to their homes and allow senior homeowners to tap into the equity in their homes to help pay property taxes. And we will invite proposals for other innovative ways to add to or preserve affordable housing options in Madison. All told, these programs will invest $51.9 million in Affordable Housing over the next 6 years
Youth Programs and Community Services: Madison’s youth and families need support on multiple levels right now. With online school, our needs for childcare services are more challenging than ever. Kids of all ages need positive places to engage that are also safe in the time of COVID. Older teens and young adults are looking for employment options too. This budget holds firm on funding commitments to services and programming that support youth and families – some $11 million in total. It includes funding for youth employment (which will actually receive a $100,000 boost), more than $2 million of support for neighborhood centers, and resources that benefit a wide range of out-of-school programming that promotes positive youth development. The budget increases funding for violence prevention efforts while maintains support for early childcare services and tuition assistance for lower-income families. And it continues funding for programs that serve older adults and that expand employment and career opportunities for people who are unemployed or underemployed.
COVID Relief: The 2021 budget creates a $725,000 flexible COVID relief fund that will help Madison residents deal with emerging issues as we navigate the social and economic fallout of the pandemic, including the increased threat of evictions that could result when the federal moratorium on evictions is lifted. The City will work with community partners to allocate this funding to support families in our community.
Homelessness: The COVID pandemic has resulted in higher rates of homelessness in Madison and around the country and it has created added challenges in ensuring that persons experiencing homelessness in our community have safe spaces with adequate physical distancing between people. Even as we have responded to this short-term crisis with creative, collaborative solutions, including the temporary conversion of the Warner Park Community Recreation Center for use as a men’s shelter, City and County staff are taking steps together to develop long-term facilities that will serve the most vulnerable members of our community. The City’s 2021 budget includes $3.0 million for a long-awaited men’s shelter, an amount matched by the County in its budget. In the meantime, we are working to move our temporary shelter from Warner Park to our vacant Fleet Building on First Street where we can support more people this winter.
I know our community members will face tough challenges in 2021 due to the COVID pandemic, and we are working hard to help people navigate through those difficulties. To learn more about these and other community service programs, visit www.cityofmadison.com/dpced/communitydevelopment.