Proposed Madison housing for veterans and their families would be nation’s largest

January 5, 2018

A developer is planning a low-cost housing complex for veterans and their families on Madison’s East Side that would be the largest facility of its kind in the nation, Dane County officials announced Thursday.

The $15.1 million development — called Valor on Washington — would offer 64 housing units including a mix of subsidized and market-rate rents with two- and three-bedroom apartments and on-site services for veterans.

“Veterans and their families have given so much to our country, we it owe to them to help them when they come home,” County Executive Joe Parisi said during a news conference at Dryhootch Inc. in Madison.

Gorman and Co., of Oregon, would demolish the county-owned building at 1326 E. Washington Ave. and erect a five-story apartment building with 18,000 square feet on the first floor for amenities such as child care, exercise equipment and support services that would be open to tenants and other area veterans.

Women veterans with children are much more likely to face homelessness than men, said representatives of Gorman and a veterans group that will coordinate services in the building.

Gorman this month is opening 50 apartments for veterans and their families at a site in Arizona.

Demand was so great that all the units were leased three months ago, said Megan Schuetz, a Gorman development associate. Schuetz said she isn’t aware of other housing projects.

The U.S. Veterans Administration and others help veterans find housing, but usually for individuals, not families, said Otis Winstead, Wisconsin director of Milwaukee-based Dryhootch, a peer-support organization for veterans. The Gorman project would fill a need, especially for women transitioning to civilian life after military service, Winstead said.

Dryhootch would move from its site on University Avenue to the larger space in the apartment building, said Ted Matkom, president of Gorman’s Wisconsin operation.

Gorman would seek financial support for the project from the city’s affordable housing fund, Federal Home Loan Bank and Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority Section 42 low-income housing tax credits, according to a resolution being introduced for County Board approval in two weeks.

The resolution says 54 of the 64 apartments would have subsidized rents to make them affordable.

Market-based rents would be $1,300 to $1,400 per month, with the affordable units between $800 and $900 depending on the renter’s income, Matkom said.

Under fair housing laws, the apartments couldn’t be reserved for veterans only, but Gorman will be able to give preferential treatment by maintaining separate waiting lists for veterans and others with apartments going to veterans first, Schuetz said. Gorman will work with Dryhootch on details regarding eligibility, but the company’s intention is to accept anyone who has served in the military, she said.

Construction could begin in mid-2019 with the building opening late in 2020, Matkom said.

The county bought the Messner building for $1.75 million in 2015 for use as a day resource center for the homeless, but that project fell through amid opposition from neighbors. Neighbors have indicated they might prefer two- and three-bedroom apartments, Parisi said.

The county requested proposals from developers last summer. Gorman would lease the property from the county, Parisi said.

The company will meet with neighbors to discuss the project as it works its way through the city approval process, Matkom said.

The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs assists homeless veterans through its Veterans Outreach and Recovery Program. Homeless female veterans are eligible for transitional housing at the department’s Union Grove facility, although none are housed there currently, said spokeswoman Carla Vigue.

The U.S. Veterans Administration estimates there are about 360,000 military veterans in Wisconsin, including 29,000 women. About 113,000 are in households with children.