Students identify areas for investment and development for Monona housing

Professor Kurt Paulsen’s workshop students work with Monona officials to redevelop the city's 2007 Strategic Housing Plan for the modern age, providing insights to improve housing for first-time homebuyers, seniors, and current homeowners.


Devin R. Larsen


Shelly Strom, Marshall Curry


City of Monona, WI, United States
Community Size
8,045 (2018 Census Estimation)
University of Wisconsin - Madison
UniverCity Year
Case Type
Project Stories
EPA Region 5, USA

In 2007, the City of Monona—a small city of 8,000 residents located near Downtown Madison, Wisconsin—adopted a Strategic Housing Plan in 2007, which had “the goals of providing a diverse range of housing options for its residents, encouraging homeownership for first-time homebuyers, and promoting maintenance and improvement of its existing housing stock,” yet the unprecedented national changes to the housing market meant this 2007 plan would need substantial reevaluation. 

In 2016, leaders within Monona sought out to re-examine their findings from the 2007 Strategic Housing Plan, as societal shifts over the past decade—from an aging population of seniors to younger families putting off their first-home purchase—would require improvements. While the Renew Monona loan program was created in 2010 to help current homeowners upgrade existing, aging homes, city officials would need to develop more programs to understand the challenges facing first-time home-buyers and their senior population. 

The UniverCity Year program of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an EPIC-Network member, was created to help local government and community partners with identified sustainability and livability projects. Participating University faculty incorporate community-identified projects into classes, and provide students with on-the-ground experience in support of a more sustainable and livable future for the partnered community. 

During the 2016 to 2017 academic year, the City of Monona was chosen to partner with the UniverCity Year program due to its proximity to the university and for strong support from Mayor Bob Miller. 

UW-Madison students focus on Renew Monona program

The UniverCity Year program partnered UW-Madison’s Urban & Regional Planning 912: Planning Workshop with the City of Monona to provide support in updating the city’s Strategic Housing Plan program. At the direction of Professor Kurt Paulsen, students set out to create a comprehensive Housing Plan which would identify “current issues and potential solutions for all residents, regardless of age or how long they have lived in Monona” (UniverCity Year project final report).

Students involved in Paulsen’s workshop attuned their focus on several issues relevant to Monona’s goals. Students hoped to develop useful recommendations for the program based upon these issues, which included:

  • Housing affordability for seniors living on a fixed income 
  • Integrating short-term rentals for families and singles constrained by budget and schedule
  • Making housing mobility improvements to increase accessibility for senior residents
  • Educating potential homebuyers and current homeowners about financing options available to them 

Students identified numerous pathways—strategies and tools—which could allow the City of Monona to improve its former Strategic Housing Plan, promoting the access to and maintenance of housing across the city. Student recommendations include:

Develop diverse housing options 

  • Small-lot subdivisions that feature shared spaces 
  • Community-oriented atmosphere for younger families and seniors 

Create accessible housing for all 

  • Mixed-use housing development projects should include affordable options for first-time homebuyers
  • All developments should include universal designs accessible to seniors

Promote investment options 

  • Develop marketing campaigns that promote local, state and national financing options available to residents to invest in their homes, which can lead toward preserving neighborhood stability

Students recommended that Monona could benefit from creating a marketing campaign to inform residents of the existing housing resources and amenities available to them. Housing Plan Updates developed by Professor Kurt Paulsen’s students were presented to the City of Monona’s Housing Committee. Some of the proposals have led to finding other sources of housing improvement funds.

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local/community partner.

Translate »