Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced on Sunday a plan to use approximately $ 30 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act on housing initiatives.
The proposal requires the approval of the Joint Council and is expected to be adopted before the August break. Barrett said he expected to submit the plan to the council this week.
The money is part of $ 394.2 million in federal funds raised by the city from the American rescue plan law.
Barrett said he wanted to prioritize housing investments in his first plan for the funds.
“I consider housing construction to be one of the most pressing problems the City of Milwaukee is currently facing,” he said at a press conference.
Barrett also considered early childhood education, exemption from residence, internet access, and more to his priorities for the funds of the American rescue plan. Proposals to spend the rest of the money will be made soon, he said.
“This is the first part of my multi-year approach, and there are clearly other needs that we have,” said Barrett. “And part of that is balance.”
Housing investments are critical as foreclosures are a “fourfold hit” for Milwaukee, he said.
Along with families losing a place to live, vacant houses have a knock-on effect on the surrounding community: the city does not levy property taxes on the houses, property values nearby fall, and more city resources must be used to monitor the houses.
In addition to several measures, the proposal provides for US $ 3 million to flow to the city Compliance Loan Program, which enables qualified homeowners to obtain interest-free deferred loans for repairs required to fix code violations.
Westley Jackson Jr., who has owned a house in Milwaukee’s Uptown neighborhood since 1994, received a program loan last year to fix his leaky roof. Barrett held the press conference outside Jackson’s house on Sunday.
Jackson, who is retired and receiving Social Security checks, couldn’t afford to fix the roof himself. He was grateful for the program that enables homeowners to repay their loans on the sale or transfer of the property.
“It’s been a blessing to me,” said Jackson.
Most of the $ 30 million would go to the Westlawn Choice Neighborhood Initiative, a Federally funded project from 2015 the additional funding needed to be completed.
Barrett proposes allocating $ 15 million to the project, the majority of which will be used to fund 326 affordable mixed-income housing units.
The Westlawn project aims to replace a “distressed” public housing development along Silver Spring Drive and to build additional rental apartments and houses at market prices.
About $ 2 million of the proposal would be used to cover remaining infrastructure costs for the Westlawn project, such as new paved roads, alleys, and water and sewer systems. The infrastructure work there is about 80% complete, according to Barrett’s office.
Barrett’s proposal also includes:
- $ 5 million to help low-income residents fund energy-efficient retrofits to their homes such as improving insulation and HVAC systems, which in turn reduces their energy bills.
- $ 2 million for three low-income residential projects currently being developed to address pandemic-related economic challenges such as shipping delays, supply bottlenecks and rising material costs.
- $ 1.8 million in support of a right-to-right program that provides a free lawyer for eligible Milwaukee County residents at risk of eviction. It would also aim to reduce “unscrupulous landlord practices” and unnecessary evictions. The city would cooperate with the Legal Aid Society, among others.
- $ 1.2 million Expansion of homebuyer and foreclosure advisory programs, funding of six new positions for three years. The counselors provide pre and post home purchase assistance, as well as help with mortgage and foreclosures.
- $ 1.2 million to fund two-person teams cleaning, repairing, and dismantling the residue of empty Milwaukee Housing Authority homes – to create more housing for people waiting for services. Approximately 92% of the units are currently occupied, and city officials estimate that the additional staff would increase the occupancy to 98% or more.
- $ 1.2 million towards the Resource center for rental apartments, an organization that provides landlords and tenants with advice and assistance.
The city received half of the $ 394 million and will receive the second half in 10 months, Barrett said. The money has to be spent in about four years.
“This gives us an opportunity to address the very serious problems we have here in Milwaukee,” he said.