Fund in year two continues work in North and South Side neighborhoods
When property taxes increase, the likelihood of displacement does as well. This reality is all too familiar to those who live in Milwaukee neighborhoods such as Halyard Park, Harambee, Brewer’s Hill and Walker’s Point. It is this issue at the heart of MKE United’s Anti-Displacement Fund. The fund, launched in late 2019, is a direct response to community concerns about displacement in the neighborhoods surrounding Milwaukee’s downtown.
MKE United is a collaborative initiative that includes the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, LISC Milwaukee, Urban League of Milwaukee and the City of Milwaukee. The cross-sector partnership has raised $500,000 to support the fund, from private and philanthropic community donations.
One recipient of the fund, Sherman Dixon, a resident of the Southern portion of the Harambee neighborhood, shared “It was like it was sent from heaven. It really helped me. This type of help is needed more than ever due to the tax increases me and my neighbors are seeing.”
Another program participant, Cynthia Howze, cited the anti-displacement fund as giving her a lifeline to stay in her home.
The five-year pilot, only the second fund it’s type in the nation, is designed to address homeowners with the highest risk of displacement. To be eligible for the fund residents must meet the income requirements and have owned (or inherited) their home since Jan. 1, 2015. Additional requirements include being current on real estate taxes and not in foreclosure. Maps of the eligible geography can be found at the Anti-Displacement Fund website at https://www.mkeunited.com/antidisplacementfund
The fund awarded the first grants in early 2020, approving 111 qualifying homeowners and assisting 86 with funding to pay the gap between their 2018 tax bill and 2019 taxes.
Assistance ranged from $15 to $1,832 with an average payment of $435. Demographic data indicated that 56% of participants were 62 and older. Year two of the fund launched in October and will be continuing to accept applications through January 8.
The impact of the fund has been positive, but it is recognized that the anti-displacement fund is simply one tool to prevent displacement. MKE United recognizes much more is needed to help prevent displacement and impact the existing structural issues.
The fund was created in response to requests from residents, local elected officials and the City of Milwaukee, and was informed by the city of Milwaukee’s Anti-Displacement Plan. The original funding was raised in three months due to the urgent concerns and pressing timeline to launch before last year’s tax cycle. It has been a valuable tool in supporting homeowners at the highest risk of being displaced due to increasing property taxes in areas seeing the most significant tax increases due to market development in the downtown.
MKE United continues to advocate to the State of Wisconsin for flexibility for local solutions to reduce the reliance on property tax. The initiative is also exploring shared ownership investment models to support community control and wealth generation when properties do appreciate.
This is not something one sector, collaboration or partner can address alone. We invite other partners to work with us and the city to implement additional displacement prevention measures. MKE United is committed to the neighborhoods surrounding Milwaukee’s Downtown and their current residents, as we continue to listen and act upon the needs of the community and explore opportunities for stability, wealth-building and displacement prevention.
MKE United is a comprehensive planning process working to develop and implement a shared and inclusive vision for Downtown Milwaukee and its adjacent neighborhoods.
Contributors to the Anti-Displacement Fund include: American Family Insurance, Bader Philanthropies, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Kahler Slater, Kohl Philanthropies, RINKA, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Bucks Foundation and Zilber Family Foundation
If you would like to determine your eligibility for the MKE United Anti-Displacement Fund, more information can be found at https://www.mkeunited.com/antidisplacementfund. The application cycle deadline is Friday, Jan. 8, 2021.
If you would like to be contacted about making a donation, please reach out here through our website here: https://www.mkeunited.com/anti-displacement-fund-donation
MKE United Anti-Displacement Fact Sheet – 1/4/21
Informed by data in the city’s Anti-Displacement Plan, MKE United responded to resident and aldermanic concerns of displacement in two areas adjacent to downtown.
o Proximity to downtown development, increased market activity and rising property values have contributed to increases in property assessments, which correlate to tax increases (tax increases that have been significantly above the city average over the past five years).
MKE United’s Executive Committee raised the funds in fall of 2019 to launch a five-year pilot to freeze this growing tax burden for the families most at risk of displacement to enable them to stay in their homes.
The uniformity clause of the Wisconsin state constitution prevents municipalities from creating exceptions within property taxation to account for factors such as historic context, age, or income of the homeowner. Other states who are not bound by this clause employ a variety of models, including legacy homeowner status or senior tax freezes. The partners in MKE United continue to advocate for changes to state statutes to reduce our local reliance on property tax as we recognize the impact it can play in displacement.
Enrollment for the second year of the MKE United Anti-Displacement Fund Pilot launched Oct. 5, 2020 and will run through Jan. 8, 2021.
Homeowners need to meet four eligibility criteria to receive support from the fund:
• They must own and live in a property in the eligible area.
• They must have owned the property since at least Jan. 1, 2015.
• They must be current on real estate taxes and not be subject to mortgage foreclosure.
• Their annual household income must be equal to or below the program limits.
The fund supports eligible homeowners by making a tax payment on their behalf in an amount that is the difference between their tax bill in the first year approved and their current tax bill.
The fund is administered by Riverworks Development Corporation’s Financial Clinic and we have been working with a variety of community partners to reach residents in the impacted areas.
More information can be found at: https://www.mkeunited.com/antidisplacementfund
We received an anonymous donation of $100,000 through the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s donor advised funds in the fall of 2020 to strengthen the fund and the supports it provides homeowners, increasing the total funds committed to $500,000.
• Year 1 results
111 qualifying homeowners with 86 receiving financial support
74% of program participants who identified race/ethnicity were African-American, Latino/Latina, or Middle Eastern
56% of participants were 62 or older
Median household income of participants was $21,916
$38,356 in total funds distributed
• Average of $446 per household, ranging from $18 to $1,832
The median home among participants went from $71,500 in assessed value in 2018 to $87,200 in 2019, still below the city average of $117,601
• Year 2 Application information as of 1/4/21
121 applications (30% new and 70% recertifications)
94 applications approved and 15 pending application completion