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Hurdles, Misunderstanding & Opposition: Challenges To Building Affordable Housing In Milwaukee

Aerial view of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Adobe Stock
Aerial view of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Like many cities, Milwaukee has an affordable housing shortage — yet there are always new projects in the works in neighborhoods around the city.

Tom Daykin has been watching and reporting on these new affortable housing developments, and the hurdles to getting these projects done. He covers commercial real estate for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

For the most part, affordable housing has stayed in concentrated parts of Milwaukee, Daykin says. "Part of the problem is that a lot of these tax credit driven, affordable housing developments have been in neighborhoods that we generally define as Milwaukee central city — on both the north side and the south side." He points out, "The area east of the Milwaukee river, the east side, you've had very few of these developments."

Daykin says this has a lot to do with the cost of doing a project. Parcels are more expensive on the east side, he says, compared to the north side of Milwaukee.

And, when objections arise, Daykin says, a lot of it boils down to people worrying about how affordable housing will impact the value of their homes. However, he says, "there have been studies, which the developers will offer up, that shows that these types of developments actually generally increase the value of the homes."

Daykin points to misunderstanding "where people do not realize that these affordable housing developments that are ... created with these tax credits are really for both low and moderate income people. Again, people earning up to 60% of the local median income."

And, when affordable housing is built in the same neighborhood as high-end condominiums and apartments, Daykin says, "what you're accomplishing is true integration — not just based on race, which of course is badly need in Milwaukee, but also integration based on class, integration based on income — that these are things that are generally good for building stronger communities."

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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