REALTORS® Association of South Central Wisconsin Advocates for Zoning Changes to Increase Housing Density Near Transit in State Capital

REALTORS® Association of South Central Wisconsin Advocates for Zoning Changes to Increase Housing Density Near Transit in State Capital

June 2023

Like much of the rest of the country, Madison, Wisconsin, is facing a severe housing shortage.  The good news is that in 2020, the city adopted an ambitious, multi-faceted plan called ‘Housing Forward’ to remove barriers to creating more affordable housing and increasing housing choice.  The REALTORS® Association of South Central Wisconsin has systematically supported all of the new ordinances associated with Housing Forward, and recently faced-down a serious challenge to transit-oriented development.  REALTOR® Party resources helped them to foster support for this effort – and for all the goals and strategies of the progressive housing plan.

Robert Procter, the association’s Government Affairs Director, explains that federal funding has enabled the City of Madison to create a new rapid transit system featuring express bus routes along main traffic arteries that access downtown.  “There will be longer buses making fewer stops to expedite commutes and accommodate more riders.  To maximize the benefits of the system, a new ordinance was proposed, allowing for greater building density and less onsite parking along these routes. We’re not talking about giant high-rises; in effect, it would clear the way for the development of “missing middle housing” such as townhomes, duplexes and fourplexes on available lots, in keeping with the scale of existing neighborhoods.”

The issue that surfaces repeatedly in opposition to this kind of ‘missing middle’ development, says Procter, is that many single-family residents, neighborhood associations, and historic districts fear change.  “They are the ones who testify loudly, voicing objections to anything that might alter the character of their surroundings.  In the big picture, everyone’s in favor of more housing, but at the micro-level, concerns pop up about maintaining the nature of a neighborhood,” he says, noting that these concerns shouldn’t be allowed to obstruct the construction of more housing to address our housing crises.  He points out that no one speaks up in favor of future renters or future buyers, so that’s a critical role that falls to REALTORS®.

An Issues Mobilization campaign supported by the REALTOR® Party targeted Madison voters to speak up for housing.  Through a new website that educated voters and collected petition signatures, direct mailings, and extensive digital advertising, it raised awareness about what was going on and conveyed voter-support to representatives on the City Council.  “On behalf of those future renters and homeowners, we demonstrated the community’s political will to adopt the changes,” says Procter.  “Our broader goal was to show the city alders that there’s support not only for this ordinance, but for candidates who support good housing policy.

The effort helped convince the City Council to adopt the necessary zoning changes for increased housing density near Madison’s amped-up transit system.  Procter reports that housing was also the number-one issue in the city’s recent election, and it was the REALTORS® who framed it in such a way that a pro-housing majority was elected – but only narrowly.  “This underscores the necessity of showing continual support for affordable and equitable housing, as enumerated in the Housing Forward plan.”  To that end, he is a big fan of the REALTOR® Party grant programs: “It’s amazing how much NAR is able to do to support us.  If you have a challenge, they have the resources to help.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® Association of South Central Wisconsin is working to relieve the housing crisis and maximize transit-oriented development in the state capital, contact Government Affairs Director Robert Procter at or 608.283.6762.

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