A collaboration of Milwaukee organizations is putting forward recommendations for the city to address its affordable housing challenges.
The Community Development Alliance said it is working with city officials to create a multi-stakeholder affordable housing strategy in Milwaukee, where significant disparities in homeownership rates among Black and Hispanic residents persist.
The most recent Census data indicates 27% of Black households in Milwaukee own their homes, compared with 37.5% of Hispanic households and 55.8% of white households. The city’s overall homeownership rate fell over the past 15 years from 50% to 40%.
While nonprofit and government entities have been involved in increasing access to housing in the city for years, this new push by CDA is aimed at maximizing those individual efforts with one coordinated strategy.
CDA — itself is a collaboration of Bader Philanthropies, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Northwestern Mutual Foundation and Zilber Family Foundation and other community organizations — said its strategy will focus on producing additional units, promoting homeownership and assisting residents through the purchasing process to address the Black and Hispanic homeownership gap.
“Housing stability is not a standalone issue; it plays a role in so many other quality of life indicators, including employment and overall health and well-being. Milwaukee has a unique housing problem in need of a solution,” said Gina Stilp, executive director of the Zilber Family Foundation and chair of the CDA. “We’ve recognized there is an opportunity to convene partners across the city as part of a shared strategy, goals and accountability. Together, we’re identifying how we can collectively create sustained and meaningful impact for Milwaukee residents.”
A recent Wisconsin Policy Forum report took stock of housing affordability challenges in the city. Based on a survey of dozens of nonprofit organizations and private developers whose work involves affordable housing development or housing services, WPF said increased affordable housing development was named as the strategy most in need of increased financial support. More than half (54%) of the 61 housing leaders surveyed said it was the top priority to address the housing affordability gap.
Currently, non-governmental organizations in Milwaukee produce roughly 1,500 new affordable housing units per year, but there is a notable lack of units available to very low-income households, according to the WPF reports.
In addition to creating new units, the CDA said its priorities include preserving homeownership through anti-displacement programs, increasing the supply of quality affordable housing units for residents making hourly wages of $7.25-$15, and reducing evictions.
The CDA said it’s working with other stakeholders to finalize its strategy around those goals and plans to begin executing on them in 2022.
The CDA has traditionally focused on building neighborhood leadership and engagement in Milwaukee, but since 2020 has shifted to focus on affordable housing efforts in partnership with Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee.
“Mayor Barrett has made housing stability and equity a priority,” said Lafayette Crump, commissioner of the Department of City Development for Milwaukee. “The Department of City Development is thrilled to be working with other city departments, Community Development Alliance and its partners to finalize a strategy and implementation to increase and entrench opportunities for all residents to live affordably and safely while building a secure financial future for themselves and their families.”