DCHA Preserves 20 Units of Affordable Housing


On May 31, 2018 the Dane County Housing Authority purchased and preserved 20 units of Affordable Senior Housing in Belleville WI. The Sugarwood Apartments located at 50 Heritage Lane on the southern edge of Dane County were built in 2000 utilizing the Section 42 Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and had been slated to be removed from the program and transitioned to market rate housing.

By utilizing the Opt Out provision in the WHEDA tax credit qualified allocation plan the original developer had submitted an application to remove the income restriction on the property, and after a tenant protection period, begin to raise rents to market rate. By purchasing the Sugarwood Apartments before the Opt Out could take place the DCHA has ensured that these units will remain in the Section 42 program.

Further DCHA plans to convert the 4 market rate apartments at Sugarwood to units set aside for Seniors making no more than 30% of Area Median Income or about $19,250 per year. These units will be supported with rental assistance from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ensuring that the residents do not pay more than 30% of their income for rent plus utilities.

DCHA Executive Director Rob Dicke said that preserving affordable housing is a priority for the organization. “As a community we continue to prioritize building new affordable units in Dane County but if we lose units on the back side we are just spinning our wheels.”

The DCHA received $450,000 from Dane County’s Affordable Housing Development Fund and financing from Monona Bank to complete this project.

DCHA Preserves 48 units of Affordable Housing in Marshall

School st

Today the Dane County Housing Authority acquired 48 apartment units in Marshall in an effort to preserve affordable housing opportunities in North-Eastern Dane County. The School Street Apartments at 402-510 Madison Street in Marshall were built in 1992 utilizing the Section 42 Low Income Housing Tax Credit program but after 15 years of required compliance the units were taken out of the Section 42 program and were no longer under any rent or income restrictions.

By purchasing these units the DCHA is committing to keep the units affordable by restricting all future move-ins to families at or below 60% of County Median Income (CMI), and capping the rents at the HUD published Fair Market Rents (FMR) for Dane County. There will be no relocating of any of the current residents, even if they are above 60% of CMI, but the restrictions will go into effect immediately for any new move-ins.

In addition to the rent and income limits the DCHA hopes to make the units even more affordable by attaching Project Based Section 8 assistance to 12 units in the near future. Under the Section 8 program eligible families pay 30% of their monthly income in rent and utilities with the remainder being paid by HUD through Housing Assistance Payments. This would fill a great need in Marshall as there are no rental units currently in the Village that are affordable for Households at 30% of CMI.

Effective immediately the units will be professionally managed by Wisconsin Management. Anyone looking to apply for housing should contact Ashley at 608-258-2080.

Section 8 Wait List- Who Applied?

Rural countrysideand sky in Dane County, Wisconsin on an August afternoon

Rural countryside and sky in Dane County, Wisconsin on an August afternoon

On August 4th 2015 the Dane County Housing Authority opened its Section 8 Wait List for the first time since 2007. The list has been closed for so long because in 2007 it was opened for two months and in that time over 5,000 families applied. The applications were delivered in sacks by the Postal Service and it took staff weeks to enter all the applications. With limited financial assistance from HUD, it took almost eight years to serve them all.

Recently other areas of Wisconsin had Section 8 Wait lists open to people lined up around the block waiting for hours to have their applications date and time stamped, or allowed thousands of people to enter a lottery for a chance to be placed on the list, knowing only a fraction would get that chance. I was determined that when the DCHA opened our list things would be different.

To that end we implemented an on-line application process that allowed people to apply from home, the library, their local senior center and even their smart phone. There were no lines at our office (although there were lines at the Tenant Resource Center, the Job Center and at other service providers), there was no lottery, but we decided that the Wait list should close once we had received enough applications that we could reasonably serve in 1-2 years, or about 1,500 applications. We had no idea how long it would take to get to that number but there were estimates from as little 12 hours to 2 days to a month. In the end we reached 1,500 applications in 90 minutes.

There were some technical difficulties along the way; we learned that Firefox was not compatible with the application software and that the acceptable format for a phone number when applying on a smart phone was different that the acceptable format when using a computer. Based on the early complications we decided to leave the wait list open until all support message calls were returned, and closed the list at 2:39 PM just 4 hours and 39 minutes after it opened,

In the end we received 2,212 applications; more than we had planned on but less than half the number we accepted the back in 2007. Hopefully this means the families that applied today will receive assistance in a more timely fashion, and the wait for the chance to apply will not be so long. Whats more, a lot of them were able to apply without leaving home.

The other nice aspect of an on-line application is the immediate availability of data. If you read my post “Dispelling the Myth” you will know that I am a big fan of statistics and could not wait to find out who had applied for our program. So here are some numbers and let’s start with…


  • 2,212 applications in 4:30 – that is 8 applications per minute
  • 1,322 in the first hour alone – that 21 per minute for the first hour


  • 2,212 applications covering 4,865 total family members
  • Of those family members 2,351 are children
  • 1,736 applications have female Heads of Household or 78.5% of the total
  • 314 (14%) of the applications have Heads of Household who are 55+ years of age


  • 1,476 (66.7%) applicants report living, working or attending school in Dane County
  • 727 (32.8%) report being homeless
  • 1,178 (53.2%) report being rent burdened- meaning they pay more than 40% of their income in rent and utilities
  • 332 (15%) report living in substandard housing


  • Applications were received from 20 states and the District of Columbia
  • 1,325 (59.9%) applications were received from Madison
  • 1,936 (87.5%) applications were received from Wisconsin
  • 163 (7.3%) applications were received from Chicago, which for the record is similar to…
  • 161 (7.2%) applications were received from Sun Prairie

How (or How Much)

  • 834 (37.7%) of applicant households make at least $15,000 per year
  • 405 (18.3%) of applicant households make between $10,000 and $14,999 per year
  • 428 (19.3%) of applicant households make between $5,000 and $9,999 per year
  • and of the total- 1,667 (75.3%) of applicant households make $5,000 or more per year
  • Only 278 (12.5%) reported no household income


A wise man once told me there are lies, damn lies and statistics but I don’t hold that against my father, and I understand that numbers can be manipulated to tell a narrative. However I do think that there are some things to take away from this analysis:

  • There is a great demand for affordable housing in our community and we need to do more to address the issue
  • Poverty and Homelessness is a pressing issue in Dane County
  • The families seeking assistance by and large are our neighbors and do not deserve to be demonized or shamed as “others seeking to take advantage of our tax dollars”
  • The families seeking assistance are the working poor who need help affording housing and are not “people who are unwilling to work”

I hope that we as a community can continue the efforts shown by both the City of Madison and Dane County to address the affordable housing gap in our communities and do so in a way that is civil to one another, responsible with the resources we all contribute to the common good and compassionate to those in need.

old man (2)The more I try to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless and those who struggle to afford housing, the more I receive comments like this one:

“The best thing Dane county or even better Madison can do is stop having section 8 housing. Property values will rise, property taxes and crime will decrease and schools will be better. We don’t need to keep bringing people into our city who suck our resources and dollars while not being a contributor.”

Or this one:

“You have to let these people know what impact they and their families have on us tax paying, law abiding people, and that it would be a great idea if they left Madison and went back to where they came from. It is getting serious here… and we feel that  people such as yourself have forgotten that fact.”

These two individuals think they know what type of person is on the DCHA’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and it got me thinking, exactly who is on the program? Being a big fan of statistics I decided to look into it, and even I was surprised. Here is what I found:

94% of program participants make less than 50% of County Medium Income or $28,350 per year for an individual or $36,450 for a family of three.

92% have an income of at least $5,000 per year. 64% make at least $10,000 and 41% make at least $15,000 per year. Only 3% have no income at all.

49% of program participants work. 52% receive either Social Security or pension payments.

53% of program participants are either elderly or disabled. 40% have minor children in the home and only 6% are not elderly, disabled or caring for children.

The average household size is 2.6 family members.

40% of program participants have been on the program for 5 years or less. 69% have been on the program for 10 years or less. Remember that 53% are elderly or disabled and have little hope to get a job and get off the program.

Last but not least, of the 461 families on our Section 8 waiting list 88% currently reside in Wisconsin and 87% in the 608 area code.

So when you say “Get a job” the vast majority of those able to do so already have a job. When you say “Go back to where you came from” the vast majority are where they came from. And when you say “Get off the program” the majority of participants, because of their age or disability, have little hope to get off the program.

So this is my challenge to you; now that you know exactly who the Section 8 program participants in Dane County are, how should we address their housing issues? And before you say end the Section 8 program remember that between the DCHA and the CDA in Madison, this program keeps 2,600 families off the streets and directs over 14 million federal dollars to Dane County landlords every year. Without this program our local economy would crash, emergency services would be overrun and people would be dying in the streets. Crime will go up because people will be desperate, property values will decrease because of the sudden glut of vacant rental units and schools will be worse because students without a home perform poorly. Is that the Dane County you envision? Because it is not my Dane County.

The Good, the Bad and the Scary

plastic housesFirst the Good. After the announcement that sequestration would cut housing assistance payments by 6% in the Section 8 program myself, like many others, feared that program participants in the Section 8 program would be at immediate risk of losing their housing. Luckily for Dane County we have some unspent budget authority that HUD is using to keep our assistance levels up and we have not had to terminate anyone from the Housing Choice voucher program to date for lack of funding.

The Bad. We only have a limited amount of additional budget authority to bridge that gap and unless Congress does something to end the sequester and fully fund HUD in the next budget, that buffer will run out. Long term forecasting will help us gauge how soon this will happen and we will deal with reduced funding by attrition, meaning we will be forced to stop issuing Section 8 vouchers to families who have been on our waiting list for over 5 years and allow our program to shrink as participants come off. It is better than terminating assistance to current program participants, but it still leaves families in need of assistance homeless, paying more that 40% of their income in rent or living in sub-standard housing without reprieve.

The Scary. The 6% cuts also impact the administration fees that PHAs are paid to run the Section 8 program on behalf of HUD. 6% wouldn’t be so dire if these fees had not already been cut by 25% at the beginning of 2012. HUD determines the amount of administrative fees each PHA needs to run its program and for the DCHA that comes to $67.70 per voucher per month, but due to Congress’s continual under-funding of HUD we are now only receiving 69% or $46.71 per voucher. Compounded over the 1022 vouchers the DCHA has under lease that is a reduction of $21,451 per month and $257,421 per year in cuts.

The vast majority of administration funding that allows the DCHA (and most other PHAs across the country) to run these programs and serve very low income families in our communities is generated by these Section 8 administration fees. Without them we would not be able to pay our staff, rent our office space or provide the basic services that Dane County needs. So far we have adapted to the reduced funding by shutting down our Home Ownership program, lying off staff, reducing overhead and shrinking our office space. We had created a very lean budget in order to break even under the 25% cut, but the extra 6% cut under sequestration puts us back in the red, and back to the cutting floor without much left to cut.

As a community and a country we need to decide where our priorities lie; are they sheltering the homeless or would we prefer to give tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations? Should we provide decent, safe and sanitary housing to the elderly and disabled or should we increase the size of our military? If you believe as I do that we need to do some nation building here at home, please contact your elected officials and encourage them to fully fund the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2014.

How the Sequester will affect Dane County’s most vulnerable


As we head closer to the sequester people are trying to figure out how the automatic budget cuts will effect everything from health care to airport flight delays. While some cuts may be more annoying than others, some are sure to be life threatening. Last Friday Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) across the country received an email from Sandra Henriquez, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Public and Indian Housing, a division of HUD. The letter attached warned PHAs to expect a 6% cut to their Section 8 program for the remainder of 2013.

6% percent may not seem like a lot but let’s break down the numbers and their impact on low-income families in Dane County communities outside of the City of Madison. If you are not familiar with the program, The Housing Choice Voucher program (often refereed to as Section 8) allows families whose income falls below HUD published limits to apply at their local PHA for a voucher. This voucher allows them to select the housing of their choice and pay 30% of their income in rent, a level that the federal government has determined to be affordable. The balance of the rent, up to HUD’s publisher Fair Market Rent, is then paid to the landlord by the PHA in the form of a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). If the Sequestration cuts take effect starting April 1 HAP payments to PHAs will be cut by 6%.

For the Dane County Housing authority this means a $36,120 reduction in HAP payments every month. With the average HAP payment being about $600, this cut means that 60 families will lose their rent assistance. That’s 60 families that are now homeless, 60 vacant housing units not collecting rent and 60 requests to local shelters for emergency assistance. When family members become homeless they are less likely to be able to keep a job or find a new job. Children are less likely to attend school and if they do, perform at a lower level that their peers. When people become homeless they are more likely to face substance abuse issues, mental health problems and incarceration. All of these costs far exceeding the $600 per month rent subsidy that was lost because we couldn’t agree on how to fix the budget.

So will the sequester lower your taxes? Will it lower the unemployment rate or the crime rate? Will it improve the economy? Or is it more likely that the across the board spending cuts will increase homelessness, increase unemployment, increase crime, push us back into recession and pass the cost from the federal government down to the local, county and state level? 60 new homeless families in Dane county is scary but remember I am only talking about the communities outside of Madison. When you add in the cuts to the city and the other 71 counties in Wisconsin we are facing a homelessness crisis starting April 1, 2013. And for what? What did we gain? It is time for our representatives in the federal government to fix more problems that they create.