Milwaukee Habitat gifted $5.75 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

Brian Sonderman, executive director of Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity(Photo: Milwaukee Habitat)

Last updated on March 24th, 2022 at 12:37 pm

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity is the latest local nonprofit organization to receive a multi-million-dollar gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

The Milwaukee-based Habitat affiliate announced Tuesday it was awarded $5.75 million from Scott as part of her $436 million distribution to 83 Habitat organizations and its international parent organization.

“A gift of this magnitude is truly a blessing,” said Brian Sonderman, executive director of Milwaukee Habitat. “Ms. Scott’s tremendous generosity will be put to work right here in Milwaukee, empowering local families through affordable homeownership opportunities. We’re amazed and invigorated with this opportunity to serve more families in our city. We hope this gift will inspire others to join us in making a difference in communities most affected by the affordable housing shortage.”

Milwaukee Habitat said it was surprised by the gift, which is the largest single donation in its history. Its leadership team is “developing strategic plans to maximize the impact” of the gift, the organization said.

“As our team strategizes on how to most effectively use this gift, considerations of land acquisition, capacity and other key variables are being analyzed to determine how we can serve as many families as possible,” the organization said on its site Tuesday.

Milwaukee Habitat last week kicked off its 2022 build season by raising the walls of two new homes in the city’s Harambee neighborhood. The organization is in the middle of a $12 million, multi-year effort to build 80 affordable homes in the north-side neighborhood.

This year, its goal is to build 20 new homes in the neighborhood and repair 40 homes on Milwaukee’s northwest side.

The initiative is focused on addressing the high cost of renting in Harambee relative to residents’ income. Currently one in three Milwaukee renters spends half or more of their income on housing, according to Habitat. Meanwhile, the high cost of down payments, inability to access home loans and high home prices make it difficult for many to become first-time home buyers.

As homes are completed in Harambee, they are being sold to local families in need of affordable housing. Average monthly mortgage payments on Habitat homes are $600-800, compared to the average monthly cost to rent in the city, $900, and to own, $1,600.

Last week, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee announced it received a $17 million donation from Scott as one of 62 Boys & Girls Clubs and its national organization that were awarded a combined $281 million. In a national charitable spree in late 2020, Scott gifted $25 million to United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County$15 million to Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin and Metropolitan Chicago and $5 million to United Way of Racine County. Late last year, Milwaukee-based Public Allies, a national nonprofit that prepares underrepresented young people for grassroots leadership, announced it had also received a $10 million donation from Scott and her husband, Dan Jewett.

Previously, Scott was married to chief executive officer Jeff Bezos.

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