Bauman’s $150 Million Affordable Housing Plan
Plan would save every city-owned single-family home and duplex.
Alderman Robert Bauman is pushing ahead on his proposal to use federal funds to repair every house the city holds in its inventory after pursuing property-tax foreclosure.
Bauman, the council’s leading preservation advocate, is calling for $150 million of the $394 million the city will receive from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to go towards affordable housing.
Under the proposal, a total of $105 million would go to the Department of City Development (DCD) to rehabilitate approximately 700 single-family houses and duplexes at an estimated cost of $150,000 per living unit. The per-unit cost would be lower than building new houses said Bauman and the city can now afford to rent out the homes at below-market rates.
Those properties could either be sold at “affordable” prices or leased as part of an affordable housing rental portfolio. Revenues would fund future rehabilitation work.
DCD would be tasked with recommending to the council whether it should do the work with city employees or by hiring contractors.
“There are thousands of Milwaukeeans struggling to pay their rent and mortgages, and members of the public frequently expressed their support for the city to invest in and expand affordable housing throughout Milwaukee during three recent town hall-style ARPA virtual listening sessions hosted by members of the Common Council,” said Bauman.
The alderman first introduced the framework for the idea in April. His proposal to institute a demolition moratorium on city-owned houses while exact funding amounts were sorted out was defeated following opposition from his colleagues with the greatest number of city-owned homes in their districts.
The new resolution skips the holding stage and jumps right to allocating the money.
In addition to the $105 million to DCD, a total of $35 million would go to the Housing Trust Fund to support developers creating new or renovated affordable housing. In 2019 the city allocated $900,000 from the program, representing two years of the program’s budget, to fill funding gaps in projects that were poised to create a total of 207 affordable housing units. That includes the Old Main at Soldiers Home redevelopment and the new construction Villard Commons building.
Additionally, $9 million would go towards expanding capacity within existing city affordable housing programs including the STRONG Homes Loan program for privately-owned housing repairs, the Targeted Investment Neighborhood Down Payment Grant program, MERI a public-private partnership for city-owned home repair and sale, the rental rehabilitation program, Live/Work Duplex conversion program and Bronzeville homeownership program.
DCD would be tasked with providing recommendations on specific funding allocations to its programs.
The council will debate the proposal at a future committee meeting. Other proposals for the funds, including backfilling lost revenue to the tune of $40 million are pending. One proposal would allocate at least $15 million to council members ($1 million per district) to decide how their constituents would like it spent. Another Bauman proposal, to spend $100 million to fix the city’s aging streetlights, is not eligible given the federal parameters.
The funds can’t be used to reduce taxes, pay the city’s pension liability or pay down debt. It can be used to supplement lost revenue, compared to 2019, meaning it could replace money lost from the suspension of parking violations and other permitting fees.
Mayor Tom Barrett announced in early June that $3.8 million would go towards summer employment opportunities for young city residents, expanding the existing Earn and Learn program. The council approved the allocation Tuesday.