Money Odds & Ends

Morgridges to receive philanthropic award
John and Tashia Morgridge have been named to receive the inaugural Wisconsin Philanthropic Leadership Award from the Donors Forum of Wisconsin.

The award honors philanthropists who have shown exemplary leadership through their charitable giving and recognizes the impact philanthropy has on maintaining and sustaining the quality of life that makes Wisconsin a great place to live, work and raise a family.

The Morgridges contributed a founding gift of $175 million to establish the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars Inc. (FFWS), which created a permanent endowment to provide financial grants for eligible, lower-income, talented graduates of Wisconsin public schools attending a public post-secondary school in the state.

 "John and Tashia Morgridge are known for their generous spirit and tremendous support for higher education in their home state," said Deborah Fugenschuh, president of the Donors Forum of Wisconsin. "Their historic investment to create the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars epitomizes the power of philanthropy to achieve positive change in the lives of Wisconsin residents."

The Morgridges will formally accept the award on Wednesday, Sept. 17, during the luncheon of the Donor Forum of Wisconsin’s ninth annual Conference on Philanthropy at the Italian Conference Center in Milwaukee.

The Donors Forum of Wisconsin is a professional membership association for grant makers in Wisconsin with a focus on creating opportunities for the exchange of ideas and information, disseminating current nonprofit sector trends and research, fostering relationships between service providers and funders, building partnerships within and outside the sector, and advancing the growth and enhancement of stewardship of philanthropic resources for the betterment of all Wisconsin residents.

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Milwaukee housing market continues to decline
Home sales in the metropolitan Milwaukee market in August fell 18 percent from the same month a year ago, according to the latest data from Multiple Listing Service Inc.

New listings for August showed a 14.2-percent decrease over a year ago, marking the 13th consecutive month of declines.

"We currently have 10.13 months of inventory, with 14,712 active residential listings in the metro area. This is even with the 10.1 months we had when the July stats were released (8/11), and up slightly from the 9.7 months we had when the June analysis was released (7/10), but it is down significantly from the 12- to 14-month levels we had going back to last fall," said Mike Ruzicka, president of the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors.

"While the housing statistics released by MLS (this week) show sales and listings down compared to the past two years, brokers are optimistic that interest rates will fall further after the federal government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, leading more buyers to get off the fence and make a purchase," Ruzicka said. "Buyers have several advantages in the current market, however, that they shouldn’t lose sight of; including an ample supply of homes, historically low interest rates, and the new $7,500 first-time homebuyer tax credit … If this supply side correction continues, we should start seeing upward price pressure later this year or in early 2009 as all of the buyer advantage, mentioned above, kick into gear."

Barrett launches foreclosure response project
Mayor Tom Barrett 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."

In anticipation of federal money coming to Milwaukee as a result of the passage last month of the Federal Foreclosure Prevention Act, Barrett said he and other city officials want to put together a data-driven strategy to address the problem. 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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