Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Foreclosed Home Will House Those Displaced By Lead Abatement

Community Advocates will buy, rehab city-owned home for temporarily displaced families.

By - Apr 12th, 2022 05:33 pm
Houses along S. 15th Pl. in the Polonia neighborhood. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Houses along S. 15th Pl. in the Polonia neighborhood. The subject house is not pictured. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A nonprofit housing assistance group is buying a city-owned home to house families displaced by lead abatement work.

Community Advocates will receive a $5,000 forgivable loan to make improvements to the property. The funds come from the city’s $300,000 emergency housing assistance fund.

When the fund was created in 2019, its sponsor Alderwoman Chantia Lewis said she was drawn to introduce the effort after learning of families who were displaced after members tested high for blood-lead levels, requiring in-home abatement work.

“It got me thinking, we have a housing stock, why not produce an emergency place for these people to go?” said Lewis at the time.

Community Advocates will purchase the Borchert Field neighborhood home and add it to two others it secured approval to purchase from the city in September 2020. Those two homes came with a $17,724 forgivable loan.

“These homes will be put into service shortly,” said Department of City Development real estate services manager Amy Turim on Tuesday when the latest proposal was before the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee.

The city acquired the property in 2012 through property tax foreclosure and renovated it through the since-aborted “Rehab to Rent” program. The original tenant moved out. Community Advocates, said Turim, will do some cosmetic updates to the home.

“This wasn’t the intended ultimate use of this property, but it is a great end use,” said area Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs.

Ald. Jose G. Perez praised the new use. He was one of the leaders of an effort to allocate more funding to the Milwaukee Health Department and lower the city’s blood lead level intervention threshold from 20 micrograms per deciliter to 10. “We are assuming that there will be a need for having to relocate families,” said Perez.

The $26 million allocation from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act grant funds a one-year expansion of the program. The allocation is expected to address 490 additional poisoning cases and 850 units of housing.

The houses will be used for short-term stays while licensed contractors perform lead abatement work in the family’s primary residence.

A $3 million allocation is going to the Department of Administration to train more contractors to perform the abatement. The city is expected to partner with Employ Milwaukee for a new job training program targeted at people of color and young adults who are unemployed or underemployed.

In an unusually bureaucratic setup, Community Advocates will receive $5,000 from the housing fund, but also pay $20,000 plus closing costs for the house. The sale proceeds will go to the city’s tax stabilization fund. The nonprofit’s loan will be forgiven if it owns the home for five years and provides annual reports to the city on its use. The home will be required to be fully taxable by a deed restriction.

The emergency housing fund has also been tapped for an $80,000 forgivable loan to redevelop an eight-unit apartment building into a home for females escaping sex trafficking. The council approved the loan for Dana World-Patterson‘s Foundations for Freedom organization in May 2021.

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