Fitchburg’s single-family housing market saw a long-awaited rebound in 2018 after more than a decade without reaching 50 single-family homes constructed in any given year.
At the same time, there was lots of movement on a plan some city officials hope can maintain the momentum and also create avenues to make some of the new construction more affordable.
There continued to be a strong market for apartments, as there is throughout the county, even though a North Stoner Prairie Neighborhood proposal for more than 100 units sat in limbo amid yearlong opposition from neighbors.
The housing study states that both single-family and multifamily housing need more than 100 units per year through 2030 to keep up with anticipated population growth here. Last year was a start, with more than 100 of each permit issued.
That included committing some public funding to a new senior housing development on the north side of the city, which addressed a demographic that had been identified as a need in the draft study released earlier this year.
The use of public funding, usually in the form of tax-increment financing, is one of the potential strategies outlined in the study to encourage developers to bring projects here and keep costs for renters or buyers low. Others include waiving fees, reducing parking requirements or setting up funds for loans or grants for new home buyers, each of which could prove politically sensitive.
Another issue fraught with controversy was a development in the North Stoner Prairie Neighborhood, along Seminole Highway. It could also serve as an example for the city and developers in the year ahead of how – and how not – to continue the 2018 “momentum” in building both multi- and single-family housing here.
From January through December, drew dozens of angry neighbors showed up at city meetings to complain about a plan to build 182 apartments and some “affordable” homes. Some said the proposal violated the neighborhood plan approved more than five years earlier, even though an amendment had been approved in 2017.
Complaints and testimony against the move helped set up a series of 4-4 votes, with ties broken by Mayor Jason Gonzalez in their favor.
The Plan Commission and Common Council were unable to agree on how much density should be allowed, and by the end of the year, the city had to asked for legal advice from a statewide municipal advisory agency on how to proceed.
A rewrite of the city’s comprehensive plan is expected to begin this year, and the North Stoner Prairie Neighborhood could be one of the more contentious sections.