Milwaukee nonprofit organization ACTS Housing
will soon bring its program, which enables renters to become homeowners, to Beloit.
The organization will launch the $2.9 million initiative this summer, with the goal of assisting 150 low-to-moderate income families in becoming homeowners over the next five years.
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Michael Gosman, executive director of ACTS Housing.[/caption]
The program is fully funded, with lead support from the Hendricks Family Foundation, Beloit 200, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Stand Together and earned income.
ACTS will open a four-person office in Beloit to support the initiative, which will be its first office outside of Milwaukee.
Since it was established in 1995, ACTS has assisted more than 2,500 families in becoming homeowners, including the reclamation of more than 860 foreclosed homes.
ACTS began exploring the idea of expansion about three years ago. Michael Gosman, executive director of ACTS, said the organization sought a city where residents, local government officials, banks and the philanthropic community were enthusiastic about its plans.
“Over about 18 months, we came to realize that Beloit satisfied all of those needs that we identified and more,” Gosman said.
Following the loss of manufacturing jobs in the city and the national foreclosure crisis, homes in Beloit that once were owner-occupied have increasingly become renter-occupied, Gosman said.
“Those renters usually have consistent incomes but they don’t see a pathway to home-ownership because they’re surrounded by fellow renters,” he said. “It’s easy for them to think this isn’t for someone like them, however they might define that. But what we’ve discovered through listening sessions is there is a tremendous hunger for ownership from all stakeholders to improve housing stock and provide opportunity in Beloit. But there just wasn’t a party that was helping connect the dots.”
By transitioning 150 families from renters to homeowners, ACTS’ initiative is aimed at building momentum around homeownership in Beloit. In Milwaukee, the organization has seen many alumni of the program go on to help their friends and families buy homes, without the help of ACTS.
“We have the opportunity to help not only individual families improve their lives through ownership, but we can create a culture of homeownership in Beloit that hopefully exists long after there’s an ACTS Housing office in Beloit,” Gosman said.
A 2017 Harvard University study that found the median renter in the bottom income quartile spent 60 percent of their monthly income on rent, with $500 left for all other expenses. ACTS said the average family receiving its services spent 23 percent of its on housing in 2018.
In addition to its Beloit expansion, the organization also projects a 25 percent increase in homes sales this year through its Milwaukee program. While that will be the organization's focus in the near-term, Gosman envisions future expansion into other cities.
“When we’re as successful as we believe we can be in Beloit, we’ll be opportunistic about where we can have the largest impact, while also maintaining the work we’re doing in Milwaukee," he said.