City officials taking foreclosure crisis head-on

The new Milwaukee Foreclosure Partnership Initiative will be a formal effort to address the mortgage foreclosure crisis in the city.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced that he will kick off the new Milwaukee Foreclosure Partnership Initiative (MFPI), a formal effort to address the mortgage foreclosure crisis in the city, this Thursday at Convent Hill, 455 E. Ogden Ave.

Barrett started the action-oriented, public-private partnership to formalize efforts that began two years ago when Milwaukee started to see an increase in foreclosures as a result of the national mortgage crisis.

The group will be led up by chairs Kathryn Dunn of the Helen Bader Foundation and attorney Steve Chernoff with Godfrey & Kahn S.C.

Currently, there are about 1,500 bank-owned foreclosures in Milwaukee and foreclosure filings are up 56 percent this year compared with last year.

The partnership, which includes lenders, foundations and community stakeholders, is aimed at steadying Milwaukee neighborhoods most affected by the foreclosure crisis, using a three-tiered approach: prevention, intervention and stabilization.

"City resources are being taxed by the increase in foreclosures in Milwaukee," Barrett said. "The underlying instability in the neighborhoods hardest hit only makes our challenge that much greater. The work of this partnership is going to be critical in forming our solution to make these neighborhoods whole again."

The Milwaukee Common Council last week voted to establish a Special Joint Committee on Redevelopment of Abandoned and Foreclosed Homes. The committee will handle the appropriation of funds that the city will receive as a result of the federal Housing Economic Recovery Act, which provides cities funds to purchase and rehab (to then sell) homes and properties that have been abandoned or foreclosed upon.

"Milwaukee may have $15 million to $20 million in resources available very soon and having this committee in place to begin the work of planning for the funds is imperative so that we can make the most of these resources," said Ald. Robert Bauman.

The City of Milwaukee already has created a database of bank-owned properties and has mapped locations throughout the city.

City officials are working to implement an ongoing monitoring system that will track foreclosed properties and foreclosure filings in the Milwaukee County Register of Deeds office. The tracking will serve as an early warning system to alert officials to neighborhood trends and forecast where future foreclosed properties may be located.

"There will not be a one-size-fits-all approach to this," Barrett said. "We know we need to tailor our efforts neighborhood-by-neighborhood based on the severity of the problem

and the strength of the housing market in that area. The challenges before us are great, but together we can find and implement meaningful solutions that will make our neighborhoods stronger."

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