City Spends Big On Housing The Poor
Housing Trust Fund has spent $6.5 million since 2006 on low-income housing.
The Milwaukee Common Council recently allocated more than half a million dollars — $526,212 — from the city’s Housing Trust Fund (HTF) to help pay for six projects that will construct new housing, rehabilitate existing housing and convert historic buildings to adaptive reuse — all to provide housing for low-income city residents.
The trust fund has awarded $6.5 million in grants since it was established by the council in 2006. The primary mission of the fund is to assist the city’s most vulnerable citizens through housing, and more than 760 housing units have been created for roughly $7,800 per unit over the last decade.
“It’s a pretty remarkable statement that we have made such a huge improvement in the state of housing for those who are most vulnerable,” said Ald. Michael Murphy, chair of the HTF advisory board, at the council meeting.
The city’s part of that investment, and all $6.5 million since 2006, has come from local property taxpayers. That has helped leverage, $103 million in private funds or $17 in private money for every $1 in taxes spent.
“That’s probably one of the best investment rate of returns the city has ever received on its money,” Murphy said. “And for helping our citizens. It’s remarkable what we have been able to do with just a little up-front investment on the city’s part.”
Each year, housing projects for the homeless get 25 percent of available HTF funds, as Mario Higgins, a housing program officer with the City of Milwaukee Community Development Grants Administration, explained to the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee in early February. In that category this year was a $193,000 grant to Heartland Housing Inc. to assist in the developing 60 units of affordable housing for St. Anthony’s Apartments at 1004 N. 10th St.
Another 30 percent of the funding goes to rental projects, and 25 percent goes to homeownership activities to rehabilitate homes. The remaining 15 percent, which this year amounts to $78,000, is available for any projects to apply for after the grants are awarded, Higgins said.
In the rental projects category, the ongoing development of the Garfield School Campus and The Griot building by J. Jeffers & Company and Maures Development Group received $100,000 from the fund this year. The Garfield project will see 71 units, 30 of which will be reserved for families making 60 percent or less of the area median income.
Another one of Gorman & Company’s many development projects around the city will also receive $100,000. The developer has purchased 50 units of foreclosed houses and will develop them into duplex and single family homes.
Part of the fund’s homeownership activities this year include providing Habitat for Humanity $44,500 to rehab eight previously foreclosed homes.
Revitalize Milwaukee received $67,962 to pay for necessary housing updates, repairs or accessibility modifications for up to six low-income, elderly homeowners and the Sherman Park Community Association received $20,000 to help fund repairs on four low-income households. That $20,000 will match dollars coming from the Sherman Park Neighborhood Investment District to provide free repairs for the homeowners, Higgins said.
Murphy noted that the six 2017 projects selected by the advisory board for funding will also create jobs for construction workers, carpenters and those in the trades. “When we ensure that the investments we make in housing also create jobs for local tradespeople, we foster a win-win for the city—caring for those in need while creating the opportunities Milwaukeeans need to thrive.”
Murphy was the lead sponsor of the proposal to create the Housing Trust Fund in 2006, with six council co-sponsors, including just one current alderman, Bob Bauman.