Walls Are Raised On Affordable Homeownership Initiative In Harambee
The first walls were raised on an affordable homeownership initiative in Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood. Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity plans to build more than 80 brand new, affordable homes in the area over the next four years. These homes are part of our Cost of Home campaign to serve 250 families on Milwaukee’s northwest side through affordable homeownership and critical home repair.
Mayor Tom Barrett, CEO of Bader Philanthropies, Inc. Dan Bader and City Development Commissioner Lafayette Crump joined Milwaukee Habitat Executive Director Brian Sonderman to kick off the project by raising the walls of one of three Habitat homes beginning construction on the 3400 block of North 3rd Street. After raising the wall, they inscribed messages to the future homeowner on the studs.
Systemic inequalities of redlining and housing disparities have shaped our community where, in the four-county metro Milwaukee area, nearly three out of four Black families do not own the home they live in, while nearly three out of four white families do. Until about 60 years ago, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) deemed entire neighborhoods, like Harambee, high risk for lending opportunities. The FHA issued maps where neighborhoods, including Harambee, were shaded in red, hence the term “redlining.” Instead of evaluating individuals for loans on a case by case basis, this created a system where it was legal to essentially deny entire minority populations access to equal loan and housing opportunities.
Milwaukee Habitat aims to combat our city’s homeownership equity gap, one of the worst in the nation, by making homeownership accessible for local families. Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity offers an opportunity for low-to-moderate income renters to become first-time home buyers. Habitat homeowners pay a mortgage that won’t exceed 30% of their income, widely recognized as the threshold for affordable housing. Typical mortgage payments average $600-$800 per month for a brand new Habitat home. Families also receive financial education and home maintenance courses to help prepare them to be successful homeowners.
Homeownership has proven key to generational wealth building in America. U.S. homeowners have an average net wealth that is 400% higher than that of renters with similar demographics and earnings. Yet, local families earning below Milwaukee’s median income are often met with barriers to homeownership like the ability to afford a down payment or gain access to an affordable loan. This has led to staggeringly low rates of homeownership in areas like Harambee, where currently only 22% of residents own the home the live in. Compare this to Whitefish Bay, just up the road, where homeownership rates are nearly 82%.
Habitat Executive Director Brian Sonderman noted during the wall raising event: “Here in the Harambee neighborhood, Habitat’s mission is to build homes, communities, and hope,” said Sonderman. “And given the events of the last year, we believe these homes are a sign of hope. Not only for the homeowners who will live in them, but also for the neighborhood and for our entire city.”
Milwaukee Habitat is now accepting applications for their 2021 new construction homes. Interested individuals can learn more and apply by attending their free, virtual homeowner orientation at milwaukeehabitat.org/housing.