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.
Starting this week, the City of Milwaukee will oversee Housing Authority residents’ maintenance concerns and provide funds to address them.
In October, the Common Council approved an ordinance change to give the Department of Neighborhood Services authority to inspect properties and issue code violations to the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, also known as HACM.
In addition, the council approved $250,000 in funding in the 2024 budget to address maintenance issues at Housing Authority facilities.
The ordinance change, sponsored by Ald. Robert J. Bauman and Ald. Russell W. Stamper II, creates a Housing Authority Maintenance Fund Special Purpose Account with $250,000 in funding.
This will enable the Housing Authority to accelerate maintenance and repair work and to make other improvements to properties.
Fixing a backlog
Bauman said the council has a duty to its residents to ensure they live in safe and affordable housing.
He said the funds will help the Housing Authority address its backlog in repairs and maintenance issues that affect tenants, especially those who are older or have disabilities.
Citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason the Housing Authority fell behind in repairs, Bauman called the funds a one-time installment to help it catch up.
Stamper said: “What good is it to criticize and police without providing aid for repair?”
Ald. Michael Murphy said he’s concerned that using the funds will create a significant precedent for the council.
“Housing Authority will now be accepting property tax levy dollars for maintenance of its property,” he said. “We are now taking responsibility for what is the federal government’s job.”
Murphy said the council has no proof that the Housing Authority is properly appropriating the funds it already has, so he was hesitant to make their repair issues a taxpayer issue.
Ald. Scott Spiker agreed.
“I fear what happens when $250,000 isn’t enough,” he said. “What do we do when all of these same arguments still exist next year?”
Kevin Solomon, an organizer with Common Ground, the group that brought HACM’s maintenance issues to the forefront, said he isn’t sure throwing money at the issue will help.
“No one knows HACM’s current financial situation,” he said. “Even HUD (Housing and Urban Development) can’t find out what’s going on with their finances.”
Common Ground has since shared the stories of residents who say their housing conditions have not changed despite promises by leaders.