Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Habitat Building 80 Homes in Harambee

Backed by Bader Philanthropies, Habitat aims to transform the fortunes of neighborhood and families

By - Apr 7th, 2021 03:08 pm
Raising the front wall at the Habitat for Humanity house at 3455 N. 3rd St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Raising the front wall at the Habitat for Humanity house at 3455 N. 3rd St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

“Hope is here,” said Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity executive director Brian Sonderman moments before raising a front wall on a new house.

The new house, located at 3455 N. 3rd St., is one of 80 the organization plans to build in the Harambee neighborhood over the next four years.

Sonderman, Mayor Tom Barrett, City Development Commissioner Lafayette Crump and Dan Bader of Bader Philanthropies, whose foundation is funding 40 of the new homes, gathered Wednesday morning to celebrate the construction milestone.

Volunteers, typically the backbone of Habitat’s house construction efforts, joined the officials in ceremonially raising the wall and nailing it into place. The house is one of at least seven being built on the block.

Each of the houses will be two stories tall with three to four bedrooms and 1,200 to 1,400 square feet of living space. Qualifying applicants, who must undergo a financial counseling process and participate in the construction, will pay a mortgage of between $500 to $800 per month.

The goal is to create a supply of owner-occupied, affordable housing in a neighborhood that currently only has a 22% homeownership rate and is marred by vacant lots and a housing stock in need of repairs. The median household income is $19,300.

One in three Milwaukee renters spend more than half their income on housing, which constrains their ability to save and spend on other things like healthy food. Multiple benchmarks call for households to spend no more than 30% of their income on housing.

“This didn’t just happen overnight, the reality is that these are systemic issues,” said Sonderman, noting that Harambee and other areas were victims of discriminatory redlining practices by banks and other institutions.

Barrett said the new homes, along with repairs to up to 170 other houses across the northwest side, will create healthier families. Hope, the mayor said, can be broken down letter-by-letter to mean a home, opportunity, prayer or purpose and education.

“It starts with a home,” he said.

Bader, who relocated the family foundation in 2018 to a redeveloped building at 3300 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and recently completed redevelopment on a second, adjacent building, said he’s been keeping a close eye on construction progress as he drives through the neighborhood.

And that construction must lead to families establishing homes, he stressed. “To me, it is all about that.”

The organization announced its $1 million gift to the housing effort in December 2019. But the pandemic slowed the start of construction.

“The demand is there and all of us need to meet that demand,” said Crump.

The city sold 19 lots for $1 each to Habitat and also contributed $50,000 through the Housing Trust Fund. The lots are located in an eight-block cluster between W. Keefe Ave., N. 1st St., W. Townsend St. and N. 3rd St.

Harambee isn’t the only area Habitat is active in. It’s nearing completion on its Midtown 100 effort. It expects to mark a similar wall-raising milestone on the 100th house this summer. The targeted strategy involves building 65 homes, making critical repairs to 20 more and substantially rehabilitating 15 foreclosed or blighted homes in an area that runs from N. 21st St. and W. Garfield Ave. southwest to N. 30th St. and W. Lisbon Ave.

A similar program in the Washington Park neighborhood saw a 40 percent reduction in crime on streets with a new house.


Press Conference Speakers

One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Habitat Building 80 Homes in Harambee”

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