Graham Kilmer
MKE County

$6.5 Million Awarded for Suburban Affordable Housing

Two projects in Wauwatosa, one in Brown Deer would together create 129 new units.

By - Nov 30th, 2022 12:34 pm
Rendering for the MSP Real Estate Inc. project at 11500 W. Burleigh St. Photo courtesy of MSP.

Rendering for the MSP Real Estate Inc. project at 11500 W. Burleigh St. Photo courtesy of MSP.

Three contractors have been awarded a total of $6.5 million by Milwaukee County for housing projects in suburban communities that are expected to create 129 units of affordable housing.

The projects are part of a county effort to develop affordable housing in the suburbs. The county is using $15 million from its allocation of federal stimulus funding under the American Rescue Plan Act to provide gap financing for these projects.

The first three contractors awarded funding are Jewish Family Services Inc. ($2 million), the Luther Group ($2 million) and MSP Real Estate Inc. ($2.5 million). The funding for Jewish Family Services is contingent on securing $2 million in low-income housing tax credits.

Luther Group is working on a housing development at 7501 W. North Ave. in Wauwatosa along with AbleLight, which provides services for people with intellectual disabilities. The project will include 17 units of affordable housing.

MSP is developing an 80-unit project in Wauwatosa’s Mayfair Collection, 11500 W. Burleigh St., and 56 units will be set at rents at or below the median county income. The project calls for two buildings. One will offer 41 units of family housing and another 39 units of independent senior housing, as Alyssa Klecker, MSP development associate, told Urban Milwaukee.

Jewish Family Services is developing a 56-unit affordable housing project in Brown Deer, at 4114 W. Woodale Ave.

In order to secure the funds, each project will come with a deed restriction that requires the property owner to maintain the affordable housing for at least 20 years.

“Quality, affordable homes should be available to all residents of Milwaukee County, and this project signals momentum and moves us one step closer to reaching the type of equity we envision,” County Executive David Crowley said in a statement. “But we can’t do it alone, so we extend gratitude to our partners advocating on behalf of housing and equity for their bold vision and action.”

The county partnered with the Community Development Alliance (CDA) in its search for affordable housing projects to fund. The organization is a network of community development financiers and developers assembled to advance affordable housing projects in the Milwaukee area. The chief executive of CDA, Teig Whaley-Smith was formerly the director of the county’s Department of Administrative Services from 2015-2020.

“Given that we consider housing the primary social determinant of health, it’s critical to unlock as many opportunities for access as possible, whether we’re empowering our neighbors in Milwaukee County or the city of Milwaukee,” Whaley-Smith said. “We’re thrilled to have these three strong partners in our work to support economic mobility.”

The $15 million in financing will be awarded through two funding rounds of $12 million and $3 million respectively. The county is leaving its request for development proposals open until the funding is exhausted.

Historically, there have been few affordable housing options and developments in the county’s suburban community, due in part to local resistance and a history of housing discrimination based on race, which specifically affected the county’s Black residents. The county’s goal with this pool of gap financing is to begin to change that.

Crowley oversaw the creation and implementation of a strategic plan for county government that makes achieving racial equity the overarching policy goal of the government. The problems of affordable housing and the racial homeownership gap are areas where Crowley has made investments with the little in unallocated resources the county has at its disposal.

“This isn’t the end-all, be-all,” Crowley said when he signed the funding legislation in July, “but this is a step closer to our goal of reaching the type of equity that we want to see across the county.”

The county’s goal is to use the $15 million to complete the financing for affordable housing projects and therefore leveraging greater investment in affordable housing. When the plan was initially presented early this year, James Mathy, housing division administrator, said the county hoped to leverage as much as $100 million in affordable housing investments with the $15 million.

“We are incredibly excited to be awarded ARPA funds for our project,” Jason Luther, president of Luther Group, said in a statement. “These funds will allow us to advance our project and deliver on our goal of providing high-quality, affordable housing to the Wauwatosa community.”

Mark Hammond, MSP vice president of development, said the gap financing from the county “represents a critical piece of the financing puzzle.” He added that his firm’s project will provide “linkages to jobs, grocery stores, public transportation and great schools with deeply affordable rents as low as $500 per month.”

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