Mayor Barrett announces over $30M in funds will support housing activities in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Mayor Tom Barrett announced Sunday, July 11, he is directing over $30 million to support housing activities in Milwaukee using funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The money is the first phase of ARPA funds to be deployed to increase housing and homeownership programs and to address potential displacement of residents stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the ARPA funds, we have an unprecedented opportunity to make substantial investments that can positively impact residents in Milwaukee. One of my priorities is safe, affordable housing options for people here,” Mayor Barrett said. “By prioritizing housing investments in the city’s most economically challenged neighborhoods, we are addressing an important need that disproportionately affects low-income neighborhoods.”

Mayor Barrett made the announcement on Sunday in front of a home on North 54th Street where the owners, Westley and Juanita Jackson, previously used the City’s Compliance Loan Program to make needed repairs.

"My house was leaking very, very, very bad. This program helped me to afford to get a new roof and fix all the things so it wont leak in the house anymore," said Jackson, who is 78-years-old and retired.

Jackson said he and his wife have lived in their home for 27 years but with time, has needed some maintenance and repairs done.

"I couldn't afford to get the roof done. I'm retired. I get a social security check once a month. I have never been late on my payments or never had no foreclosure or nothing on the house," said Jackson.

Juanita did some digging last year to find help and thankfully was able to find help through the City’s Compliance Loan Program which allows economically qualified homeowners to get 0% interest deferred payment loans. Homeowners pay back the loan when selling or transferring the property.

"This is one of my favorite programs in the city because you can so clearly see how helpful it really is to stabilize our neighborhoods I view housing as one of the most pressing issues that the City of Milwaukee faces right now. When I see homes that go into foreclosure, it really causes what I call quadruple hits to the city," said Barrett.

The Mayor’s proposal calls for $3 million in ARPA funds to be used to expand the Compliance Loan Program.

"It's geared to help people who are in their homes, who are facing really unforeseen repair costs or costs that they can't afford. We want them to stay in the home, we don't want people to lose their homes because of these very, very challenging problems," said Barrett.

"We couldn't afford to pay for this. It was a blessing that they had this type of program," said Juanita.

"I think maybe people that are in need that can't afford to do things this program will help them," said Westley.

Barrett says seeing situations like the Jacksons is why he wants to put housing at the forefront.

"We're hoping that the council will approve additional funding from the federal government allocation that will allow us to expand it and serve more people," said Barrett.

Other investments that promote affordable and sustainable housing include:

  • $2 million for three low-income housing projects currently under development to assist those projects in overcoming COVID-19 economic hurdles
  • $1.2 million for homebuyer and foreclosure counseling
  • $1.2 million for the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee to expedite 2,000 housing vouchers for families with housing needs

According to a news release, Mayor Barrett's plan also includes $1.8 million to support an eviction prevention program. Working with the Legal Aid Society and United Way, the Right to Counsel program aims to reduce unscrupulous landlord practices and reduce unnecessary evictions.

Through a Climate, Energy, & Equity Upgrade program, the Mayor proposes helping households struggling with high energy costs through energy saving retrofits. $5 million in ARPA funds will be directed to this effort.

$15 million is planned for the Westlawn Choice Neighborhood Initiative project to provide gap funding and infrastructure investments, helping fund over 300 units on and around the Westlawn site.

And, $1.2 million is directed to the Rental Housing Resource Center in the Mayor’s plan. The Resource Center played a critical role in helping families during the pandemic, and this funding will help sustain and expand their work.

This first phase of the Mayor’s Recovery and Resilience Plan will be reviewed by the Milwaukee Common Council over the next several weeks.

Last August, the Mayor established a policy requiring City departments to integrate explicit consideration of racial equity in all decision making. Every program funded in the Mayor’s plan has been viewed from a racial equity lens.

In the coming days, the Mayor will publicly discuss other aspects of his Milwaukee Recovery and Resilience Plan, including investments in workforce, public health and safety and early childhood.

For homeowners interested in getting assistance through the City’s Compliance Loan Program, contact the City Milwaukee at 414-286-2567. You can also go to the city website to learn more.

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