Amina Maamouri: Hold developers accountable for effects on community health | Opinion

Dear Editor: Listen up. We don’t need another event notification, we need a call to action that activates the community to address the affordable housing crisis in Madison. In “Neighbors invited to weigh in on E. Wash apartment project,” Nicholas Garton highlights how LZ Ventures is pushing to move along development plans for a high-rise apartment complex on the 400 block of East Washington. As an MD/MPH student who has lived in Madison area housing, I am disheartened how conversations and actions continue to downplay the impact these apartments pose on health.

High-rise apartment developments are contributing to the lack of affordable housing in Madison. As Madison’s population continues to grow, housing options in the downtown area have become limited which makes high-rise development sound like a positive solution. However, the issue is that they are offering market-price housing which fails to make housing affordable. Economic principles explain how the current market price is high because housing is limited downtown. Although you may expect rent to decrease when a new, luxury complex is built, evidence shows that rents actually uniformly increase in those areas because developers are able to set the market price. If we allow endless development and rent increases, will rent ever become affordable? No.

Housing affordability greatly impacts health. For example, paying too much for housing can limit funds for health-promoting behaviors like eating healthy. Further, just worrying about paying rent can cause chronic stress which harms health. Sadly, housing affordability and its impact on health are rarely addressed. We need to engage in conversations and actions that clarify the role of developers in supporting the health of our Madison community.

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