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Madison works to secure more housing for homeless

  • Associated Press
  • January 4, 2014 - 3:50 PM

MADISON, Wis. — Madison city and nonprofit officials are working on two initiatives to provide more housing for the homeless.

Occupy Madison Inc. hopes to buy a parcel of land so it can build more of what it calls "tiny houses," shed-like structures on wheels, for the homeless and eventually park eight to 10 there, according to the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/1gyZyQO ).

The 98-square-foot houses have a roof, insulated walls, a compost toilet and sink. Currently, a tiny house parked on a Madison street must be moved every day or two.

Occupy has secured an option to buy the land for $110,000. The plan is for up to 10 people to live in temporary shelter there as they help build their house.

The proposal needs conditional use approvals, a zoning change and a campground permit, Occupy board member Brenda Konkel said. The plan commission would retain oversight due to the conditional use, she said.

"We want to make sure the neighborhood is very comfortable with this," she said, adding that Occupy eventually hopes to create a small village at a different, larger site.

Alderman Larry Palm told the newspaper it's an appropriate site for construction but said he is unsure about parking houses there.

"The first thing is to find out what residents think and then what the zoning rules are," he said. "It's going to be tricky to make this work out in a way that would be satisfactory to everyone."

The city's Community Development Authority, meanwhile, is assembling a site for a housing project with 50 to 60 efficiency units and case management services for homeless residents.

Early last year, the city began exploring ways to provide housing for homeless adults and those at risk of homelessness.

Initially, the city considered single-room occupancy housing, which has shared baths and kitchen facilities, but eventually decided on efficiency units with baths and kitchens, case management and other support services.

The city expects to contribute $4.2 million to plan and build 100 to 110 apartments in two phases with financial support from Dane County and federal affordable housing tax credits.

Alderman David Ahrens said he has "serious misgivings" about the location. The area had the city's largest drop in property value last year and is vulnerable, he said, adding that people who are struggling are placed too often in neighborhoods near that part of town.

© 2014 Star Tribune