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.
Iran Jennings knows firsthand about the housing conditions of her neighbors.
That’s because Jennings was part of a project by the Reclaiming Our Neighborhoods (RON) Coalition and Rocket Community Fund that surveyed the exterior of Milwaukee homes.
“I got involved because I want to see my community thrive,” Jennings said. “Doing it this way allowed me to see what challenges my neighbors are facing.”
Eighty-six residents conducted surveys in 15 Milwaukee neighborhoods.
A look at exterior housing conditions
The surveys resulted in a report created by Data You Can Use that presents a summary of exterior housing conditions in 2022. The report was released in April.
Among the report’s key findings? About 25 percent of homes surveyed need at least one major repair and around 15 percent need at least two.
Another finding: Investor-owned properties represent a larger portion of homes in need of repair than those that are owner-occupied.
In total, 19,827 properties were surveyed, of which 16,913 were residential or mixed use.
‘A better understanding’
“We want to have a better understanding of housing conditions so it can be used as a means of displacement prevention,” said Adrian Spencer, the director of neighborhood engagement for United Methodist Children’s Service of Wisconsin, a partner organization of the RON Coalition. “Being able to see what resources people need will allow us to come up with plans that provide resources and keep people in their homes.”
The report found that of all the residential and mixed-use properties, 3,818 need at least one major repair and 2,486 properties need multiple major repairs.
It also found that the percentage of investor-owned residential properties that need multiple major repairs is nearly double the percentage of owner-occupied homes in a similar condition, and the total investment needed across the 15 neighborhoods is $54.094 million, using estimated average costs for the major exterior repairs identified.
The RON Coalition is made up of 11 neighborhood nonprofit partners, including Amani United, Dominican Center, VIA CDC, Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative, Milwaukee Christian Center, Muskego Way Forward, Sherman Park Community Association, United Methodist Children’s Services (UMCS), Riverworks Development Corp, Near West Side Partners and Walnut Way Conservation Corp.
The information from the survey was combined with data from the City of Milwaukee, including information about ownership and tax delinquency status, to create a dataset.
Looking for ways to better coordinate resources
Robert Lockett, the team leader of national housing stability for Rocket Community Fund, said his organization got involved to give the city a better lens to discern how leaders can better coordinate resources.
Rocket Community Fund, which sponsored this project, aims to dismantle inequitable systems by finding innovative ways to help communities.
The results of the survey provides another glimpse into Milwaukee’s housing crisis.
A 2021 report by the Community Development Alliance said the city needed 32,000 additional Black and Latino homeowners and 32,000 more affordable rental units.
To tackle this crisis, the Rocket Community Fund and RON Coalition call for increased funding for affordable housing and home repair, better code enforcement, fair housing policies and more investment in historically neglected neighborhoods.