Milwaukee County gets $10 million for eviction prevention as landlord groups urge leniency

County initiative effective immediately

River House Apartments in downtown Milwaukee.

Last updated on June 15th, 2020 at 11:44 am

The Milwaukee County Housing Division has received $10 million of the county’s federal CARES Act assistance to provide eviction prevention, housing acquisition and mortgage assistance, officials announced Thursday.

The announcement comes as a pair of associations representing area rental-property owners urge owners forgo evictions of tenants who are facing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a news release, the $10 million in CARES Act money would support county residents facing housing instability. County officials said it is the first in a series of initiatives that will be rolled out in the coming weeks to address the COVID-19 outbreak and racial inequity.

“Addressing housing instability is critical in advancing health and racial equity for Milwaukee County residents,” Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said in the release, noting African American families represent 80% of enrollments in the county’s Eviction Prevention Program.

“Housing is a key social determinant of health,” he said. “If individuals are evicted, especially as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, our Black communities will be impacted the most.”

The announcement comes days after the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin and Wisconsin Apartment Association released a joint statement urging property owners and managers in the state to hold off on evicting tenants who are behind on rent payments due to hardships related to COVID-19.

“We have urged all owners to talk to their tenants who have fallen behind in rent,” the statement reads. “Instead of resorting to nonpayment notices and court action, we recommend that owners should try to work out written payment agreements with those who are legitimately struggling. Late fees should be waived. Mediation services are available and are preferable to the expense and stress of a court-ordered eviction.”

Of the $10 million in county funding, $7 million will go toward eviction prevention. The county estimates this amount will support about 2,000 households. Specific allocations to recipients will be evaluated on an individual basis. The housing division will work with the courts to offer assistance to tenants and landlords.

Another $2 million will be used for temporary property acquisitions and rehabilitation to offer housing alternatives to those whose options are limited because of the pandemic. Another $1 million will provide mortgage assistance to households that require short-term financial support.

“This CARES Act funding will help meet the needs of many families in our community who are in desperate need, and enable our community partners to do their important work to address the housing crisis,” Marcelia Nicholson, County Board of Supervisors chairwoman, said in the release. “We urgently need our state and federal partners to send more funding to Milwaukee County to meet the growing needs of our residents resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.”

This is the latest initiative providing assistance to tenants and homeowners struggling to make payments. Others include Gov. Tony Evers’ $25 million Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program and a move by city of Milwaukee leaders to waive interest and penalty charges on outstanding balances in property tax installment payments. Other communities in the county have proposed similar initiatives to Milwaukee.

Further, the public statement from AASEW and WAA puts pressure on property owners not to evict tenants during the pandemic. This is after a state-wide moratorium on evictions ended May 27.

“We’re urging all owners to work with their tenants who are experiencing legitimate difficulties and are taking steps to apply for whatever help is available to them,” Tim Ballering, AASEW treasurer and managing member of Milwaukee-based Affordable Rentals Associates LLC, said in an interview. “We’re also urging owners that, prior to committing to a court eviction, they explore other opportunities to find another resolution.”

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