Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Baldwin, Crowley Promote Foreclosure-to-Affordable Housing Program

$8 million in funding will rehab tax-foreclosed homes for sale at affordable prices.

By - Apr 7th, 2023 10:28 am

(Left to right) Housing Division Administrator James Mathy, Don Utech with Ezekiel CDC, County executive David Crowley, Mayor Dennis McBride, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Sup. Shawn Rolland and Jim Gaillard of Ezekiel CDC. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin visited a foreclosed, run-down home in Wauwatosa Thursday to promote a county initiative to rehab taxed-foreclosed homes for affordable housing stock.

In 2022, County Executive David Crowley signed off on a $19 million plan to use federal COVID-19 stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support affordable housing around the county. Part of that spending allocation included $3 million for a program to rehabilitate tax-foreclosed properties and then sell them at affordable prices to new homeowners. Then, U.S. Sen. Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore got an additional $5 million for the effort included in the 2023 federal spending bill.

With $8 million, the new county program will not only refurbish these homes, get them back on the tax rolls and increase affordable housing opportunities for Milwaukee families, but it will also give people incarcerated at the Community Reintegration Center (CRC) an opportunity to learn a skilled trade.

Ezekiel Community Development Corp. is a non-profit contractor that works with the county’s Community Reintegration Center (CRC) on its Opportunity Knocks program giving people work experience rehabbing homes while they’re still incarcerated.

Jim Gaillard, vice president of Ezekiel, went on a tour of a foreclosed property with Crowley, Baldwin, Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride and Supervisor Shawn Rolland Thursday. As Gaillard pointed out all the work the dilapidated property needed, he noted that the elected officials may look at the house and see an opportunity for “nice, affordable decent housing.” But when he looks at it, he sees an “opportunity for about seven to 10 tradespeople.”

Gaillard said his organization has had a lot of success training the people incarcerated at the CRC, noting that many of them have gone on to work for other companies and some even work for Ezekiel now.

County Executive Crowley has often stated that affordable housing stock is critical to the county’s mission to become the healthiest in Wisconsin. And while the foreclosure renovation program will support that goal, Crowley noted, “This is not going to solve our problem is housing.”

“We need more partners,” Crowley said. “We need to really tackle this, bringing more of our federal partners, bringing the state as well as bringing the private sector to the table to figure out how do we solve this problem moving forward, because it’s not going away anytime soon.”

Sen. Baldwin said she hears affordable housing concerns in every part of the state, and explained that she was able to secure $5 million, making up the majority of the funding for the program, thanks to a recent change in congressional rules.

In 2021 a decade-old moratorium on “congressionally directed spending” was lifted. This prevented members of Congress from “earmarking” funding for specific projects. These earmarks are sometimes referred to as “pork.” Instead, they would have to lobby federal agencies for funding. “I will say, from my perspective, that there’s no more being spent because we do some congressionally directed spending, what’s happening is the decision and the direction is coming from me or one of my house counterparts, whose fingers are on the pulse of the needs of our communities,” Baldwin said.

Mayor McBride explained that, like everywhere else, it can be exceedingly difficult to build affordable housing in Wauwatosa, noting that one project the city is working on now has five different types of subsidy built into the financing. “Every municipality has a need,” he said, “and we need help from the state and the federal government to do what needs to be done.”

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Categories: MKE County, Real Estate

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