The town of Brookfield is looking at its options for expanding multifamily housing options within its borders as statistics suggest the market is blossoming.
Vierbicher, a Madison-based community planning firm, submitted a draft analysis of the market for multifamily housing to the town Sept. 24. The firm found that the town could support creation of hundreds of new housing units over the next 15 years and suggested changes to zoning rules to accommodate them.
"The town has recognized an increasing interest in higher-density multifamily housing of all sorts — elderly, assisted living and regular apartments at densities higher than our zoning codes allow," Gary Lake, town building and zoning administrator, said. "We've also noticed increasing interest in similar developments in surrounding communities."
Based on its predictions for housing needs through 2030, the analysis found the town could support 586 new multifamily rental units, 362 new condos or townhomes, and 144 new assisted-living units. Only one new home has been constructed in the town in the past two years, according to the study.
The study cost the town about $4,700, Lake said.
A growing market?
According to the study, the Milwaukee metro area has been slower than the nationwide average in constructing multifamily homes since 2000, but recently has seen a sharp increase in these types of residences.
"In many ways, this upsurge in development is the market's way of playing catch-up for lack of past production," Vierbicher's analysis states.
The study predicted there will still be room for the market to grow, citing Milwaukee's rank in having the second smallest apartment vacancy rate nationally, at 3.2 percent. The Brookfield/New Berlin submarket's rate is even lower, at 2.1 overall and less than 1 percent for newer units.
Additionally, the study noted Waukesha County is expected to add about 50,000 residents in the next 15 years, and the town is predicted to grow at a similar rate — slightly higher than most of the Milwaukee metro area.
"From the town's perspective, limited large tracts of land make multifamily developments a crucial component of future population growth," the study states.
Zoning changes possible
In order to accommodate these kinds of developments, Lake said, the town would have to change some of its zoning rules, including those that limit the density of units and population.
"The requirements for multifamily residential districts in the town's zoning ordinance are designed for greenfield development, and are not well-suited to facilitating redevelopment to a multifamily use," Vierbicher wrote in its anaylsis.
The town caps the number of units per building at eight, for example, while other municipalities, like the city of Brookfield, do not have such a restriction.
The town also could change the maximum height for residences from its current 40 feet, which is the same as Waukesha's and 5 feet higher than the cities of Brookfield and New Berlin. Menomonee Falls, however, has a maximum of 120 feet in some areas.
Lake noted that any changes to the zoning code would have to go through the proper approval process, which includes opportunities for public input.
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