Abandoned by FEMA, flood victims find a ray of hope
July 22 will be remembered by many people in Milwaukee as the day of the “Brew City Flood.” Nicolet and Riverside high schools suffered millions in damages, while an entire neighborhood saw the foundations of their homes washed away.
The City of Milwaukee has moved to condemn a number of residences in the area near 19th and Eggert, leaving 20 families without a home. Where will these people go?
Abandoned by FEMA and many without adequate homeowners insurance to replace foundations and living areas in their basements, these families need immediate help.
While they struggle to find adequate housing, the city is faced with the upkeep and care of foreclosed properties and tax-delinquent homes. These houses are spread throughout the city and are in various levels of care. Some are run down and taking the neighborhoods with them, while others are in move-in condition, abandoned during the recent economic downturn.
What they all have in common is the drain on the city in lost taxes and public maintenance costs.
Thankfully Common Council President Willie Hines saw two problems and a solution for both by matching up those left homeless by the flood with empty foreclosed properties in the city. Hines told the council that this plan will “help flood victims begin the process to get back on their feet.”
Hines’ convinced the Common Council, which approved the measure last week, to allow families who lost their homes to flood-related condemnations to purchase city-owned foreclosed homes for $1. Eligible candidates for the program would have to pick a home of comparable value to the lost house and stipulate that any insurance money received for their lost home would be given to the city to cover the costs.
This is a good use of government. Hopefully Hines and the council will keep using their offices to improve the lives of Milwaukeeans in times of need. These families need homes and the taxpayers need a break from maintaining vacant properties. The majority of families who lost their homes in the flood were either current with their mortgages or even paid in full — these are solid, middle-class families who will bring stability and property tax dollars back to neighborhoods.
These people were dealt a blow from Mother Nature and another from a taxpayer emergency fund that seems unaware of the concept of a basement. I understand that in other regions of the nation basements are non-existent or not used for vital household mechanics. But in the frozen tundra of the upper-Midwest, it is quite typical to have the furnace, water heater, washer and dryer and some extra appliances in the basement.
Hopefully, FEMA will come to its senses and realize what works for Florida doesn’t always work in Wisconsin.
If you were affected by the Brew City Flood and would like more information on the foreclosed purchase plan, click here.