Milwaukee mayor suggests how to spend US bailout money

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Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Sunday announced a plan to allocate about $ 30 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to housing initiatives.

The proposal will require Joint Council approval and is expected to be considered before the August recess. Barrett said he plans to present the plan to council this week.

The money is part of the $ 394.2 million in federal funds allocated to the city by the American Rescue Plan Act.

Barrett said he wanted to prioritize housing investments in his first plan for funds.

“I regard housing as one of the most pressing issues facing the city of Milwaukee right now,” he told a press conference.

Barrett has also included early education, lead reduction, internet access and more among his priorities for US bailout funds. Proposals to spend the rest of the money will be presented soon, he said.

“This is the first installment of what I plan to have as a multi-year approach, and there are clearly other needs that we have,” Barrett said. “And so part of that is balance.”

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Investing in housing is crucial as foreclosures are causing a “quadruple blow” in Milwaukee, he said.

In addition to families losing housing, vacant homes have a domino effect on the surrounding community: the city does not collect property taxes on homes, property values ​​decline nearby, and more municipal resources must be spent on housing. surveillance of houses.

Among several measures, the proposal calls for $ 3 million to go to the city’s compliance loan program, which allows qualified homeowners to obtain interest-free deferred payment loans for repairs needed to correct code violations.

Westley Jackson Jr., who has owned a home in Milwaukee’s Uptown neighborhood since 1994, received a loan from the program last year to fix his leaky roof. Barrett held the press conference on Sunday outside Jackson’s home.

Jackson, who is retired and receives Social Security checks, couldn’t afford to fix the roof on his own. He was grateful for the program, which allows homeowners to repay their loans when property is sold or transferred.

“It has been a blessing for me,” Jackson said.

Most of the $ 30 million would go to the Westlawn Choice Neighborhood Initiative, a federally funded project from 2015 that needs additional funding to be completed.

Barrett is proposing to spend $ 15 million on the project, the bulk of which will go towards gap funding for 326 affordable mixed-income housing units.

The Westlawn project aims to replace a “struggling” public housing project along Silver Spring Drive and build additional housing and housing at market rates.

About $ 2 million of the proposal would be used to cover the remaining infrastructure costs of the Westlawn Project, such as new paved roads, lanes, and water and sewer systems. Infrastructure work there is about 80% complete, according to data provided by Barrett’s office.

Barrett’s proposal also includes:

  • $ 5 million to help low-income residents finance energy-efficient home renovations, such as improved insulation and HVAC systems, which in turn will lower their energy bills.
  • $ 2 million for three social housing projects under development to help them overcome the economic challenges of the pandemic such as shipping delays, supply shortages and rising material costs.
  • $ 1.8 million to support a Right to Council program that provides free counsel to eligible Milwaukee County residents facing deportation. It would also aim to reduce “unscrupulous landlord practices” and unnecessary evictions. The city would partner with the Legal Aid Society, among other institutions.
  • $ 1.2 million to expand advisory programs to buyers and foreclosures, funding six new positions over three years. Counselors provide support before and after buying a home as well as help with mortgages and foreclosures.
  • $ 1.2 million to fund two-person teams that will clean, repair and reverse the Milwaukee Housing Authority’s backlog of vacant units – opening more housing for people waiting for services. About 92% of the units are occupied right now, and city officials estimate that additional staff would increase the occupancy rate to 98% or more.
  • $ 1.2 million to the Rental Housing Resource Center, an organization that provides advice and support to landlords and tenants.

The city has 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.

“It gives us a window of opportunity to resolve the very serious problems we have here in the city of Milwaukee,” he said.

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Contact Sophie Carson at (414) 223-5512 or scarson@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SCarson_News.



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