By David Crowley
Milwaukee County Executive
Housing insecurity is serious for families in Milwaukee County. As someone with first-hand experience with housing insecurity, I can testify to the physical and mental anguish that comes with being evicted, having to move frequently, and not being too certain if “home” will be a different place next month.
It’s because of those experiences that housing security is a top priority for me as County Executive. Whether it is getting unsheltered resident into permanent housing via our nationally recognized Housing First program, preventing evictions via providing free legal counsel for financially eligible households, or working with suburban municipalities to increase the amount of affordable housing in their communities – we are leading by example on housing throughout the County.
In 2023, we’ve opened the year with major victories in improving housing security. Turning residents into homeowners is critical to creating stable families, stable neighborhoods, and stable futures for everyone.
Using federal American Rescue Act Plan dollars, we’ve invested $2.5M to support the ACTS Housing home acquisition fund. ACTS’ goal is to acquire at least 100 properties this year and concert them into owner-occupied homes – with 80 percent of homeowners coming from communities of color. That means instead of wealthy investors from Chicago or New York or Los Angeles buying up homes just to make a profit, the acquisition fund will help put Milwaukee’s housing stock back into the hands of Milwaukeeans.
This is a great program that deserves support as estimates show there are 17,000 Black and Brown families in the city of Milwaukee alone who aspire to buy a home at an affordable price, but are currently priced out of homeownership & are currently renting.
There are only around 1,500 homes available in the $125k range each year – and 40% of them are purchased by investors. In partnership with ACTs Housing, we’re disrupting the predatory corporate-style business model by making homes available for ownership by local residents.
In addition, we’ve seen significant progress on a plan to make a transformational investment in the King Park Neighborhood. Recently, Milwaukee County acquired 90 lots in the neighborhood to develop 120 affordable single-family homes.
This puts us one step closer to building much needed affordable homes and creating a new generation of first-time homeowners in a community that’s been historically underserved.
The neighborhood is also home to our Marcia P. Coggs Health and Human Services Center and adjacent to our new Mental Health Emergency Center. The affordable housing development project is part of a broader, transformative investment in the entire health of the neighborhood. In addition to providing easier access to resources and services, these combined investments will create a greater sense of community.
The data tells us that housing is an issue worth working on if we want to see better health outcomes in our area. Studies show cost-burdened renters or families facing housing insecurity are less likely to have a usual source of medical care, more likely to postpone needed treatment, and more likely to go without prescribed medications.
We would not have gotten this far without a strong commitment from public and private partners to change the narrative around home ownership. As a community, we are making great progress to address the holistic health of our residents.