City To Fund 12 Affordable Housing Projects
Using federal funds for everything from new apartments to blocking predatory landlords.
A little-known city housing program will provide a big boost to 12 affordable housing efforts in Milwaukee.
The Housing Trust Fund will allocate $8.83 million to everything from new apartment buildings to an acquisition fund designed to block out-of-state landlords. The grants, designed as a “last in” strategy to close financing gaps, will leverage more than $105 million from other funding sources to create hundreds of units of affordable housing.
The fund has a record amount of capital available following the Common Council’s allocation of $10 million from the city’s $394.4 American Rescue Plan Act grant. Prior to the 2021 allocation, the fund had only granted $8 million in its 15-year history.
The city saw 27 requests for funding. “I wish we could support a lot, if not all, of the projects,” said trust fund chair Alderman Michael Murphy during an advisory board meeting Wednesday. “Obviously there is a great need in our city.”
One of the projects, a seven-unit rehabilitation by Wisconsin Community Services of 5008-5014 W. Center St., is targeted explicitly at individuals experiencing homelessness. Providing housing for the city’s homeless community is an explicit target of the fund. But the proposal for the tax-foreclosed building on Center Street was the only proposal that applied in that category. As a result, the city will maintain a fund balance of $1.8 million to solicit future proposals for this.
Five of the projects receiving funding are affordable apartment buildings. Two of the projects, the Martin Luther King Library redevelopment (93 units, $1.5 million) and the Riverwest Workforce Apartments and Food Accelerator (91 units, $1 million), are partnerships between General Capital Group and minority-led development firms (Emem Group and KG Development). Another, EIGHTEEN87 on Water (79 units, $783,765), is already under construction from Rule Enterprises, but still has a financing gap. KG’s Jewish Home proposal (40 units, $500,000) is a new proposal. The final apartment building (54 units, $500,000), planned for a city-owned site at N. 6th St. and W. North Ave., was approved earlier this year following a competitive, request-for-proposals process won by FIT Investment Group and Cinnaire Solutions. The latter two projects would still need to secure state-awarded, low-income housing tax credits to advance.
Three other allocations would be targeted at programs around housing, including homebuyer counseling and small repair projects.
“It’s the first time we’ve had some supportive services included in the recommendations. Generally, it’s been all brick and mortar,” said Community Development Grants Administration associate director Mario Higgins.
Higgins thanked the board’s technical review committee for scoring the 27 applications and making the final recommendations. He said the effort took the board up to 17 hours in person and “countless hours on their own time.”
A handful of the rejected requests are receiving city support via other financing mechanisms. That includes proposed tax incremental financing districts for KG Development’s Five Points Lofts proposal in the 3300 block of N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., and Gorman & Co.’s Edison Middle School redevelopment at 5372 N. 37th St. The long-planned Martin Luther King Library redevelopment would benefit from both the housing trust fund and tax incremental financing.