Marveling Over Maskani Place
New $10 million subsidized apartment complex provides a solution for 37 low-income families.
The issue wasn’t just bricks and mortar today when Mayor Tom Barrett and other officials gathered for the opening of Maskani Place, a new 37-unit, apartment complex at 320 E. Center St. that will offer subsidized housing for low-income families.
“This is a matter of respect,” Barrett declared. “People of all incomes deserve decent housing in this community and we will continue to ensure as long as I am in office that people of all incomes have decent housing. To me that is about as basic as it gets.”
With an estimated 43 percent of Milwaukee’s children living below the federal poverty line, Milwaukee is rated 4th in the nation for child poverty. “This city has far too many children living in poverty and we have to do even more to make sure we have housing and support services so that those families have a fighting chance,” Barrett declared. “We have we to do that as a society.” Barrett has recently criticized suburban counties for refusing to build subsidized housing.
The complex was developed by Heartland Housing, a division of the Midwest nonprofit Heartland Alliance, in partnership with Community Advocates. Maskani Place is the third and newest affordable housing venture undertaken by Heartland Housing since coming to Milwaukee in 2009. Community Advocates will provide the building’s residents with supportive services such as employment training and help finding childcare.
The 37 unit complex features two, three, and four bedroom apartments to accommodate families of different sizes. Amenities such as a wellness center, computer lab, children’s play area, and community rooms, onsite parking, secure keycard entry and energy efficient appliances make Maskani feel more like a hotel than an apartment complex. “Maskani” is the swahili word for home.
“Maskani Place was designed to be as clean as possible. We have features that lower energy use and protect the environment,” said Michael Goldberg, Executive Director of Heartland Housing. “We think that the greatest feature of the building that you won’t see immediately is stability. For the 37 families living in the building, housing previously was a monthly, weekly, and daily struggle. So with the security of living at Maskani these families can instead focus on employment, education, personal wellness, or whatever they need to improve their lives and the lives of their children.”
Mercia Harris-Williams, a single mother of two, was thrilled to move into Maskani Place. She was recently the victim of a housing scam in which she paid for an apartment in advance but was never moved in or refunded. Without a home, she and her children were forced to live in a series of hotels, living off her paychecks, savings, and the good will of others. Eventually Harris-Williams heard of Project Restore, a Milwaukee program that works to provide low income singles and families an affordable place to live.
“We have the honor of being residents of Maskani Place due to everyone and their help and support,” Harris-Williams said gratefully with her children by her side. “Now we have a wonderful home that they absolutely love. We are greatly blessed.”
Joining Mayor Barrett, Mercia Harris-Williams and her two children happily cut the ribbon before inviting members of the press into her new home. Afterwards, the gleeful children thanked the Mayor for helping them into their new home.