By PrincessSafiya Byers
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
Thousands of Milwaukeeans are struggling to access affordable housing options.
Amy Hall, the communications coordinator and public information officer for the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, said her agency provides subsidized housing for thousands. But that doesn’t put a big enough dent in the demand.
Hall said there are just shy of 5,000 units of public housing in the city, but 15,000 people are on a waitlist for it.
There also are thousands of people on a waitlist for project-based housing, which is a government-funded program that provides rental housing to low-income households in privately owned and managed rental units.
And the city has about 6,000 housing-choice vouchers for subsidized Section 8 housing provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but 8,000 residents are on the waitlist. Section 8 distributes rental payments to private landlords on behalf of low-income residents.
An August 2021 report by the Community Development Alliance, an affiliation of community development funders and practitioners, said Milwaukeeans face a series of barriers when it comes to gaining affordable housing.
Chief among them is that residents simply can’t afford non-subsidized housing.
“The most significant root cause impacting housing affordability is low wages — 53.4% of households who rent homes in the City of Milwaukee are rent burdened, spending 30% or more of their income on rent and a significant majority of cost-burdened renters are families making $7.25 – $15 per hour,” the report said.
Evictions create another barrier.
“At the core of many of these root causes are a legacy of racially discriminatory policies and actions that have created household wealth gaps and other disparities,” the report said.
Hall said all the Housing Authority’s waitlists are open and, despite the demand, she still encouraged residents to apply.
“The housing choice vouchers program is a lottery system, so if someone applied today, they would have just as much a chance of receiving that aid as someone who applied last year,” she said.
Neither project-based housing nor more traditional public housing is on a lottery system, but it is important for anyone who has applied to keep their contact information up to date.
“If we can’t get ahold of you, we will give your spot to the next person in line,” she said.
She said the Housing Authority will be partnering with affordablehousing.com soon and is hopeful that the website will be a helpful tool for Milwaukeeans in need.
Affordablehousing.com is a resource that lists affordable apartments, condos, houses and townhouses.
Besides that, Hall said, all one can do is wait for a spot to open up.
For more information
To apply for Housing Authority waitlists, you can visit https://www.hacm.org/programs/housing/housing-choice-voucher-program-section-8-rent-assistance/housing-choice-voucher-wait-list-opening#!/.
Other resources for people looking for housing help
• Community Advocates rent helpline: 414-270-4646
• Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee: 414-727-5300
• Mediate Milwaukee: 414-939-8800
• Legal Action of Wisconsin: 414-278-7722
• Social Development Commission: 414-906-2700
• Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union: 414-410-9714
• Rental Housing Resource Center: 414- 895-7368
• Impact 211: 211