Proposal pitched to require affordable housing in every new downtown-area apartment development

All privately-funded rental housing developments with more than 20 units would be affected

Rendering of the apartment tower planned at the Goll Mansion site. This project never moved forward and the site is now listed for sale.
Rendering of the apartment tower planned at the Goll Mansion site. This project never moved forward and the site is now listed for sale.

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:54 pm

There is a proposal in the works at City Hall that would require developers of new apartment developments in and around downtown Milwaukee with 20 or more units to set aside at least 10 percent of the project for affordable housing.

Under the proposal, the units must be rented to residents making less than 60 percent of the area’s median income. Developers who don’t want to comply could instead contribute $125,000 per required affordable unit to the city’s Housing Trust Fund.

The median income of Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties is $54,336, according to the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau. Sixty percent of that is $32,601.

If a developer is seeking financial assistance from the city for a residential project they will be required to provide affordable housing in 20 percent of the units, according to the proposal.

Rendering of the Goll Mansion project by Kahler Slater.

The affordable housing ordinance is sponsored by downtown Alderman Robert Bauman and has support from Aldermen Michael Murphy, Russell Stamper II, Cavalier Johnson, Khalif Rainey, Jose Perez, Jim Bohl and Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton.

Bauman said he has been thinking about introducing this type of ordinance for a long time.

“A lot of cities have done exactly this,” Bauman said. “I think the strength of the downtown market has reached a point where we can certainly share the wealth with some of the neighborhoods that have not seen a significant surge of development. I think folks of moderate incomes deserve to live in these nice, high income apartments.”

In addition to downtown, the proposal would also cover the Lower East Side, the Third Ward and Walker’s Point neighborhoods.

Several Milwaukee-area apartment developers who typically build in or around downtown Milwaukee either could not be reached for comment Tuesday or said it was too soon to comment on the proposal.

The city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee will review the proposal on Nov. 21.

Bauman said the genesis for the ordinance was the $55 million Goll Mansion apartment tower project at 1550 N. Prospect Ave., a 27-story, 192-unit apartment tower that would be built behind the Goll Mansion.

Bauman attempted to force the Madison-based project developer, Chris Houden, to put $3.5 million in an escrow account to ensure he would meet unrequired hiring standards. The city attorney later said that idea was illegal.

“The Goll project was the last straw for me,” Bauman said. “The developer came in with a lot of promises and we saw they were completely unenforceable. This is something that is enforceable. It is not written in stone. We will accept input.”

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