Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

HUD Grant for Northwest Side Fuels Skepticism

$30 million grant could help transform Westlawn, but will city hire low-income residents as required?

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Oct 12th, 2015 11:38 am
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Lynell Quin (right) and Clarence Lee said the Westlawn neighborhood needs better parks and a pharmacy. Photo by Wyatt Massey.

Lynell Quin (right) and Clarence Lee said the Westlawn neighborhood needs better parks and a pharmacy. Photo by Wyatt Massey.

Some residents of the Westlawn public housing development and the surrounding area are skeptical about a $30 million federal grant to transform the neighborhood, given concerns about the city’s handling of the 2012 development of Westlawn Gardens.

A 2013 HUD review prompted by resident complaints found that the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM) did not comply with hiring standards for the project. Section 3 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 requires that 30 percent of the workforce on HUD-funded projects be public housing or low-income residents.

Between 2009 and 2012, HUD gave HACM $230 million, $60 million of which was passed on to building contractors. A 2014 compliance agreement between HUD and HACM stated, “No Westlawn residents and no residents from other HACM developments were hired to work on the Westlawn Project.”

Paul Williams, HACM communications coordinator, acknowledged that the organization missed the 30 percent threshold for new hires. Contractors hired 81 local and low-income workers, which was 25 percent of the workforce, however none of the workers were public housing residents. Williams said that HACM has created training programs and a resident database to help contractors identify possible hires for the new development.

“We have since developed a new Section 3 plan in partnership with HUD to ensure that we meet or exceed the threshold moving forward,” Williams said.

The City of Milwaukee and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee received a $30 million grant to redevelop Westlawn and the surrounding neighborhood. Photo by Wyatt Massey.

The City of Milwaukee and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee received a $30 million grant to redevelop Westlawn and the surrounding neighborhood. Photo by Wyatt Massey.

One Westlawn resident, who did not want her name used, said the city made false promises about Westlawn Gardens.

“Everything we wanted, we didn’t get. They said they ran out of money.”

The long-time resident fears that the same type of problems will occur with the new HUD grant.

She said friends have moved out of the buildings because of a lack of heat in the winter. The resident said she fears retribution from building managers if she is openly critical of the development plan.

Milwaukee was one of five cities chosen to receive a HUD Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Implementation Grant for redevelopment of a nearly 3-square-mile area on the city’s northwest side, from Sherman Boulevard west to 76th Street and Mill Road South to Villard Avenue.

Havenwoods Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Stephanie Harling, who helped prepare the grant application, said it is an “absolute joy to have this opportunity and have this investment infused on the city’s northwest side.”

The plan involves replacing 394 deteriorated public housing units in Westlawn and building an additional 314 mixed-income rental and homeownership units. It also includes funds to support retail development and improvement of neighborhood amenities, such as transportation and parks.

Clarence Lee, who has lived in Westlawn for more than four years, said the area needs another grocery store and a closer pharmacy. The nearby Walgreen’s on 60th Street and Silver Spring Drive closed in 2007. Lee said the distance between homes and business is a burden.

“You have to go so far,” Lee said. “People don’t have rides or money.”

Lee would like the city to build better parks in the area, too. His main interest is that the money be used responsibly, he said. “I hope that with the money they got, they do right with it.”

HUD Deputy Secretary Nani Coloretti and Regional Administrator Antonio Riley visited Milwaukee on Sept. 28 to present the grant award. Grant money will also fund projects with local partners such as Havenwoods Economic Development Corp. and Northwest Side Community Development Corporation and Silver Spring Neighborhood Center.

“Our role will be to continue the programs that we do and leverage them to work with the Choice Neighborhoods program,” Harling said.

In addition to the $30 million from HUD, more than 25 private and public organizations have committed $251 million to the plan. For example, PNC Bank committed $64 million in tax credits for housing development in the area. According to Williams, Silver Spring Neighborhood Center is committing $4.3 million to invest in early childhood education, after-school and adult education programs.

The first part of the redevelopment will begin next summer with 10 new apartment buildings on a vacant lot at Westlawn Gardens. The first buildings will be used as replacement housing for current Westlawn residents, Williams said. HACM staff will meet with each household to create a relocation plan during construction. The organization will offer rent assistance for residents to move into private housing, or residents could move to other HACM housing.

Lynell Quin, whose sister lived in Westlawn, is optimistic about the redevelopment project, saying that it is a way for him and the area to start fresh. Quin’s sister was killed in the neighborhood eight years ago and the buildings remind him of her, he said.

“The old ones remind me so much of the past,” Quin said. “I want to see these gone.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

4 thoughts on “HUD Grant for Northwest Side Fuels Skepticism”

  1. Kurt says:

    “Everything we wanted, we didn’t get. They said they ran out of money.”

    Would the reporter care to elaborate on this?

  2. BT says:

    First off, I’ll second Kurt’s comment, WHAT didn’t they get and WHY wouldn’t the writer ask and have it in the story, I’ll take that info over a bunch of BS cheerleader quotes from whoever, talking about how great it is going to be if it was a matter of space.

    Yet, what makes me go through the roof as a very small time landlord (currently a grand total of ONE rental) is the same person mentioning “people moving out due to a lack of heat” during the winter-WHAT????!!!!!

    Not only would I get hung out to dry by the DNS if my tenants called on a 5 below day or even at 3am and said the furnace is dead and I said “Huh, well that sucks. I’ll try to get around to that real soon, maybe put some warm clothes on and turn your oven on high and leave the oven door open for some heat” and then I show up 3 weeks later, with some unlicensed clown “handyman” off of craigslist, who futzes around for a couple of days on it, has to rush everyone out when the carbon monoxide alarms go off, then maybe gets it going or maybe doesn’t.

    No, not only would I be worried as hell about what the city would do to me for having a “lack of heat” for tenants, I ALSO ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT THEM AND THAT THEY ARE WARM WHEN ITS RIDICULOUSLY COLD OUTSIDE!!! I don’t even need the threat of getting financially murdered by the DNS to keep the place warm, I also have a conscience, and I’m one of those heartless, evil people who voted for Walker!

    Here you go, you want the government at all levels to have its hands all over everything??? Here’s yet another great example of a wonderful, caring and as always, very efficient and thrifty government run operation at work, cold? What cold?? She wouldn’t even give her name for fear of “retribution from the management”!! Yep, let’s have the government run or exert massive control over us evil private sector folks, since we’re just chasing the dollars, heartless and cruel, but not the government!

    I’d love to hear what the heck would happen to me or any other landlord, if on top of having a lack of heat, I was either directly or indirectly threatening my tenants that if they start calling anyone about my rigged up furnace that breaks down weekly, that something bad would happen to them, but here in the wonderful GOVERNMENT RUN housing, apparently that’s just the norm! You better deal with it lady, or I’ll make you wish you had, you got that??

    So many ways I could go on this, from saying $30 MIL and yet no way to get to the pharmacy, huh old man? Well, why don’t you just move downtown, where we’re dumping $100 MIL PLUS on a streetcar that takes you nowhere you can’t already go on the bus??? (Wait until its done and we learn what the REAL COST IS!!!!) Oh well, too bad for you, you’re too old anyway, this streetcar is built for the “Millennials” and they’re going to go nuts over it and that’s what counts, not you old man. You need the exercise anyway, so enjoy your two mile walk to get your meds in mid January! Or since government has done such a great job here, I can’t wait until they totally take over the healthcare system!!

  3. AG says:

    BT, those comments by the tenant are either gross exaggeration or this reporter uncovered a huge scandal that should be investigated further. Something tells me it is most likely the former… but if it’s the latter than action needs to be taken immediately.

    Some clues that lead me to believe it’s an exaggeration though are some of the other statements that seem… out of place, lets say. For example, regarding access to grocery stores and pharmacies… there is an Aldi less than half a mile, Walgreens less than a mile, and a pick’n’save just over a mile. They can walk to some of those or walk a short distance and take one bus the rest of the way. (walk less distance than I do to the grocery store mind you).

    I’m still ticked that we tore down the other half of this community and built all new buildings. 50’s era construction was very sturdy. Roofs, foundations, mechanicals could have all been replaced at a fraction of what they spent to do that. The project was a big waste of money and could have gone to better use in the community. Can you imagine how much good Habitat for Humanity could have done with even a small fraction of that money? Or housing projects designed to help improve people’s lives instead of just stack them into boxes to live?

    Westlawn is no Cabrini Green….

  4. mary triplett says:

    They said, not enough heat . I ‘m little young myself to live project house at West lawn. Milwaukee, Wis Area Northwest side I have to took socks to my feet warm up and blankets . about 1958-60 years . Good points to them said about it .

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