MADISON – A recent University of Wisconsin-Madison-based survey found that residents of Madison’s Park Street corridor enjoy their neighborhoods and want to remain there, but affordable housing remains a key obstacle.

The survey, “Housing and Community in South Madison: Local Residents’ Viewpoints and Experiences,” completed by 109 residents of the Bram’s Addition and Burr Oaks neighborhoods in South Madison, found that 57 percent of homeowners and 55 percent of all responding residents are paying more than a third of their income for housing.

Many housing organizations consider a unit to be affordable if it costs no more than 30 percent of an individual’s or household’s gross income.

In addition, information about and access to current housing programs needs to be improved, especially for minority and lower income residents, according to the South Madison Housing Team, organizers of the project.

The group is affiliated with the Community Partnerships Office in the UW-Madison Office of the Chancellor. Each member of the team is also a resident of the South Madison area.

The study used a less-common “community-based research” model, which has residents interviewing residents, to develop a true list of neighborhood housing concerns that could be developed into action plans for improved and more accessible South Madison housing.

The team is part of an ongoing effort to revamp Park Street, a neighborhood that has one of the highest concentrations of poverty in Madison. In 2000, median household income in the area was only slightly more than $26,000, compared to a city figure of $42,000. Median value of owner-occupied homes was 50 percent lower than the city average.

Working collaboratively with Lori Kay, director of community partnerships in the Office of the Chancellor, two graduate students – Andrea Robles and Ariel Kaufman – and a South Metropolitan Planning Council staff person, Jodi Wortsman, obtained a grant from the Sociological Initiatives Foundation to conduct the fact-finding survey of area residents.

Significant findings of the study include:

– Less than 40 percent of Burr Oak neighborhood tenants who took the survey know of home-buying assistance programs;

– 53 percent of homeowners and 54 percent of tenants who took the survey reported liking their community because of the sense of community and positive interactions with neighbors;

– 76 percent of tenants who took the survey considered buying a home, but 85 percent of them faced financial obstacles.

According to Kay, several local and federal programs exist to help with home financing, as well as non-profit agencies that have knowledge of the programs. Local landlords also seem to be interested in fostering improvements in the Park Street area.

The research team hopes that by sharing this information, other community members, organizations, and local governmental officials and staff will become partners in learning, discussing, and working to make the necessary changes that will improve the housing situation.

“Our goal and our role is enhancing and enabling the community itself in fostering these kinds of improvements,” Kay says.

Possible future explorations by the South Madison Housing Team include: pinpointing overarching interests to unite homeowners, tenants, & landlords; mixed-income neighborhoods; and relationships across racial and ethnic groups. Coordination with interested non-profit and other community groups will also be pursued.

To view the full survey, visit
– Heather Gjerde, (414) 520-8846,
[email protected]