Barrett unveils affordable housing initiative

Mayor calls for 10,000 affordable housing units in the next decade

SEVEN04 Place is an affordable housing apartment currently under construction in Walker's Point.

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:53 pm

During his annual State of the City address today, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett called for the construction of 10,000 affordable housing units, especially in and around downtown, over the next 10 years.

SEVEN04 Place is an affordable housing apartment currently under construction in Walker’s Point.

Since about 2013, developers have been building numerous apartment buildings downtown, filling a void left in the market by the 2002 to 2008 condominium boom, followed by five years of no multifamily construction because of the Great Recession.

One of the staples of this downtown apartment boom has been high-end apartments targeted to millennials and baby boomers. The stretch from South Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View to North Water Street in downtown Milwaukee has boomed with five- and six-story apartment buildings lining the street.

Barrett said Monday, he wants to work with private developers to make sure downtown is not exclusively for people with higher incomes.

“I am ready to commit significant tax incremental financing to incentivize the creation of thousands of affordable housing units over the next decade,” Barrett said. “While those units can be located anywhere in Milwaukee, I’m especially interested in seeing more affordable housing in the heart of the city. Growing affordable units in these areas will make it easier for workers to get to nearby jobs.”

Typically the city does not use TIF for residential developments downtown. However, the city has provided financing for some housing projects including the 90-unit Germania building, which has about 50 percent of its units for lower income residents, and 50 percent for moderate-income residents.

SEVEN04 Place, a 60-unit affordable-housing development at 704 W. National Ave. in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood, which includes  46 units of affordable housing for working families, and another 14 units dedicated to permanent supportive housing for military veterans and other adults who have struggled with housing is also receiving financing from the city.

Besides using TIF money, Barrett also wants to expand the STRONG Home Loans Program, a city program that issues partially forgivable loans for home repair. Barrett said one partner is already committed. “Associated Bank has agreed to purchase a significant portion of our STRONG Homes Loan portfolio, which means we hope to add approximately $1.5 million to the funds available to help people stay in their homes,” he said.

“As rents continue to be a challenge, home ownership can be a smart financial decision for low- and moderate-income families,” Barrett said. “So, we will create new paths to home ownership. And we will improve housing opportunities by helping families make the repairs they need to preserve their homes.”

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