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Developer to bring more affordable housing to Milwaukee's north side

Affordable housing underway on Milwaukee's north side. The Community Within The Corridor, an exterior rendering of West River Lofts.
Que El-Amin
Scott Crawford, Inc.
Affordable housing underway on Milwaukee's north side. The Community Within The Corridor, an exterior rendering of West River Lofts.

If you drive past 37th Street and Villard Avenue on Milwaukee's north side, you’ll see some construction going on in the area. That’s where Milwaukee developer Que El-Amin is building 43 new affordable townhomes. He also recently worked on the Community Within the Corridor project where developers are re-imagining the former Briggs & Stratton industrial site into about 200 affordable apartments.

Headshot of Que El-Amin.
Que El-Amin
Headshot of Que El-Amin.

But El-Amin doesn’t want to stop there. He wants to bring economic development into neighborhoods where residents are experiencing poverty at a high rate.

El-Amin explains what affordable housing means and what it could look like in the city of Milwaukee.

"The development that we focus on is affordable, meaning you should be able to afford it if you have a job, no matter if that's a low paying job or a high paying job," says El-Amin.

El-Amin says oftentimes the houses that already occupy these areas are inadequate and are in need of major repairs. But new houses are able to be built and remain affordable through the Income Housing Tax Credit Program.

"That program highly subsidizes the construction costs by providing tax credits that a developer like myself would sell to, then take the construction costs down. Without these, for the other risks that are charged, they would not be able to be built," says El-Amin.

As part of the Low Income Housing Program, the houses that are built must remain affordable for at least 15 years. El-Amin says most developers typically have the mindset that these houses will be affordable for 30 years when they are built.

Some community members have cited fears of gentrification, and being priced out or kicked out of the spaces they live in. El-Amin says it's a heavy balance.

From his perspective, actions like putting affordable housing in places with market growth can help people who are used to paying those affordable prices to stay there.

"Overall, the community response has been very well received. People usually like to see development in the area. I think people enjoy that it's not a high rent amount because it does maintain some of the character of the neighborhood," says El-Amin.

Currently, El-Amin says he's focused on making his properties more accessible. In the future, he says he plans to spread out more through the city.

"Right now, developments have been very centered around transit-oriented development, meaning they have access to railways, roads, waterways. That's been the focus to put housing in places we can get to other places relatively easy," says El-Amin.

Another future goal is to create a new construction school. He says the last construction school was built in 1865. So, from his perspective, a new construction school with an administration of color would help a lot.

"We all share a common thread of needing safe, quality, affordable housing. So wherever we can find that need, then you know, we'll work on," says El-Amin.

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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