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City housing groups discuss new authority
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Editor's note: The following story has been updated to include correct information.

MONROE - Feedback was gained from the Monroe Housing Authority and half of the Redevelopment Authority on Tuesday on whether to dissolve the two groups in favor of a Community Development Authority to address recent housing issues.

The final decision to create a CDA would be in the hands of Monroe Common Council members, who will review comments made during the meeting.

Dan Lindstrom, planning and community development manager for planning company Vierbicher Associates Inc. based in Madison, presented the findings from a survey distributed to address housing issues within Monroe. The survey had found the need for more affordable, quality rentals and to attract young professionals to the city. Lindstrom said the choice to create a CDA would produce a somewhat independent group to deal with the problems citizens identified in the survey.

"When we look at which organization is really going to address those issues," Lindstrom said. "Many items from the community survey are not being addressed by the RDA or the Housing Authority. We, as a community, have to come together and ask who should be looking at this."

Three of the seven RDA members were present for the joint meeting. One of them, City Administrator Phil Rath, said the authority had only met once in his nearly six years with the city. The Housing Authority can only oversee the Churchill Woods Apartments due to the source of their funding, he added. The limited ability of both groups has led to the consideration of a new group. If a CDA were to be established through a decision by the city, both current authorities would be dissolved.

A CDA would be assigned as a seven-member commission designated to address various types of housing issues throughout the city, through the creation of more living spaces or the revitalization of downtrodden neighborhoods. Commission members could acquire land for housing development and approve housing projects. Lindstrom said benefits of a CDA include a focus on planning and implementing housing projects, the authority to provide flexible bonding options to finance projects. It would also allow for a more streamlined decision-making process separate from the city officials.

Members of both groups questioned what benefits a CDA could bring to the city and what the negative side of the authority could be.

Lindstrom said one of the "greatest challenges" a municipality's CDA could face is to become too focused on either housing or redevelopment. He said that finding commissioners who are qualified and have the time to volunteer can also be challenging. Another factor is the opinion of the municipal government when faced with the choice to give up direct authority over redevelopment.

Some members questioned whether a CDA would change anything, and HA members raised concerns over what would happen to the authority if it were to be dissolved. Rath said there were options the city could take to ensure a subcommittee of the CDA could manage Churchill Woods.

"Maybe the due diligence wasn't done on the front side and that's where this decision comes in," Rath said of the possibility of creating a CDA.

Comments were recorded by Lindstrom, who will compile all of the feedback to be presented to council members at a later date. Aldermen can utilize the information to make their decision on a CDA at some point in the future. Rath said the decision will not be made quickly and that progress on the topic will most likely be incremental.