With the addition of seven units dedicated for households where grandparents and extended family members are raising children, Middleton joins a nascent theme in housing targeting “grandfamilies.”

The Oak Ridge development project is an 83-unit mixed income independent senior living center and is being developed by the JT Klein Company. Of the total units, 70 will be set aside for tenants with incomes between 30 and 60 percent of the county median, which is between $25,550 and $51,120 for a family of four.

The seven units geared toward “grandfamilies,” households where grandparents or other family members are the primary caregivers, will each have three bedrooms.

“The aging baby boomer generation shows that there is a need ... for these seniors that provide care for grandchildren where maybe the parents are out of the picture, incarcerated or whatever the case may be,” the developer’s president Jacob Klein said.

Dane County contributed $665,000 to the approximately $14 million project through its affordable housing fund, following the Board of Supervisors’ approval Thursday. The project also received $882,958 in low-income housing tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

The project will be located at 7635 Lisa Lane on the city’s north side and is expected to be completed by Jan. 1, 2019. 

“We know grandparents are playing an increasing role in raising kids and this exciting project recognizes the reality of family structures today,” Dane County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan said.

“Grandfamily” households can face many housing barriers, a Generations United expert Ana Beltran said. Generations United is a Washington-D.C. based nonprofit that specializes in this issue.

“Most times when grandparents take on caring for families, it’s because some type of trauma happened to the birth parents,” Beltran said. “These children come to their care very suddenly”

Extended family caregivers may be living on a fixed income, in a small space or have lease agreements that stipulate the number of children allowed. Some family units require legal guardianship for children to live there, which these caregivers may not have, Beltran said.

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In Wisconsin, 28,000 or 2 percent of children live with a relative with no parent present, according to 2017 data from Generations United. An estimated 74,457 or 5.7 percent of children under 18 live in homes where the householder is a grandparent or another relative.

Middleton’s Director of Community Development Abby Attoun said the Oak Ridge development is the first project in the city to include “grandfamily” units.

“This is a difficult situation for grandparents to be raising children and having a nice brand new place to live in our community makes their lives easier,” Attoun said. “Its fulfills a need for additional affordable housing in Middleton, and the location is excellent.”

The project will be located near shopping, public transit, schools, a new Meriter/UW Health clinic and the Pheasant Branch Conservancy.

Though the demand for this specific type of housing is unknown, Attoun said there is no question of the need for affordable units. Currently, there are 795 units in Middleton that are cost burdened, meaning tenants are paying more than they can afford.

In Madison, Gorman & Co is building a 59-unit apartment complex in partnership with Lutheran Social Services that will be geared toward “grandfamilies” as part of the four-phase Union Corners project. Gorman & Co also developed a project in Milwaukee in 2011 that serves the same type of households.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.