Tom Landgraf has always wanted his students to gain experience by working on projects that have a real impact in the world. Now those presentations carried out by Real Estate undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison over the past couple schools years may eventually become the basis for an initiative to improve the lives of middle-class families in Dane County.
Landgraf, a senior lecturer at UW-Madison, along with professor Jim LaGro, Jr. and associate professor Kurt Paulsen were part of a local team whose proposal to close the affordable housing gap in Dane County was selected as one of 11 projects out of more than 40 ideas to move on to the next stage of the DreamUp Wisconsin initiative.
“This essentially came out of my real estate class,” Landgraf said. “This was fundamentally, in addition to detailed projects, but the 20,000-foot view of what the students suggested to the county. If you want to get this done, here’s what you have to do. [The county] said ‘Why don’t we take this and see if we can build a DreamUp proposal around this?’”
UW-Madison is one of four universities, along with Ohio State, University of Utah and Arizona State, participating in the Alliance for the American Dream, a program sponsored by Schmidt Futures. For UW-Madison, the goal is to produce innovative ideas for increasing the net income of 10,000 Dane County families by 10% by 2020. DreamUp Wisconsin is the name of the local challenge.
Landgraf’s team proposal calls for developing four investment funds coupled with information on investment opportunities and implementation plans that will fund: 1) new Affordable Workforce Housing (AWH) development projects, 2) residential solar energy and energy-efficiency improvements and 3) new and expanded child care facilities in three targeted areas.
In addition, the team proposes the creation of a Center for Affordable Housing Solutions to be located at UW-Madison, bringing together knowledge on a number of related aspects that currently exist in multiple academic and research units on campus.
“Our proposal recognizes the critical spatial relationships between housing, childcare facilities, multimodal transportation, and employment centers,” the team wrote. “Lack of access to any one of these resources can significantly disrupt upward mobility and growth of the middle class, depriving generations access to economic opportunity and the American Dream.”
While the origins of the proposal go years back, momentum came from the start of the UniverCity Year program in 2015. UW-Madison partnered with Monona to identify real estate projects that would be incorporated into classroom work and analyzed by students.
UW-Madison subsequently partnered with the Dane County Board of Supervisors and Green County in the following years.
“Rather than just make up some theoretical site and have them just go figure it out, what I wanted to do was find a local piece of land and say ‘Ok, what would we do on this piece of property?’” Landgraf said. “We bring in the owner or the community planning people to add some real-life stuff to it.”
Landgraf and his team will continue to flesh out their idea over the next month before a local community-campus review committee chooses three of the proposals to be semifinalists by Dec. 10. Schmidt Futures has committed to supporting at least one team from each university in 2019.
For more on the DreamUp Wisconsin challenge, watch this video.