When a group of Jaime Luque’s Urban Economics students at the Wisconsin School of Business were tasked with designing affordable housing, they wanted it to be more than a place to live. They envisioned a community that would assist victims of domestic violence, providing them with resources like transportation, employment, wellness and mental health services, and access to local school districts and childcare for their children, all designed with their clients in mind.
“A lack of housing poses a major obstacle to [victims] leaving their situations,” says team member Hannah Ripkey, a University of Wisconsin–Madison undergraduate student.
The five-member student team presented their project, Orchard Pointe Village based in the city of Fitchburg just outside Madison, in front of community leaders and real estate developers during the second annual “Big Event on Housing Affordability and Homelessness in Madison.”
Originally created by Luque, an assistant professor of real estate and urban land economics, the evening forum provides a space for students and members of the Madison community to share ideas and to brainstorm solutions on closing the affordable housing gap in Dane County. With nearly 3,000 homeless individuals in Madison, approximately one-third of whom are children, the need is serious, Luque says.
The forum is designed to complement the work Luque’s students are doing in his Urban Economics class. Currently, 130 students are involved with 31 sites across Dane County, Luque says. Each site gives students hands-on experience from the initial site selection through to the project proposal stage, including soliciting stakeholder input and incorporating any feedback. The process also leaves the door open for students to see their proposals developed or to work with local organizations on future ventures.
“The hope is that developers give students the possibility to collaborate in a real affordable housing development project, maybe through an internship or job opportunity,” Luque says, adding that the Urban League of Greater Madison has already expressed interest in incorporating students into a potential large development project for low-income families. “During the event, we emphasized the importance of giving students a continuous education, not only here at the university but also after their study years.”
In addition to the student presenters, the event featured speakers included WSB Real Estate and Urban Land Economics Senior Lecturer Thomas Landgraf, Dane County Housing Authority Executive Director Rob Dicke, Urban League of Greater Madison President Ruben Anthony, and United Way of Dane County President Renee Moe.