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Milwaukee residents plea for city action against Housing Authority, cite poor living conditions

Common Ground organizers speak to a crowd of concerned Milwaukee residents.
Common Ground Housing Authority
Common Ground organizers speak to a crowd of concerned Milwaukee residents.

Some Milwaukee residents are calling for action against the city’s Housing Authority after sharing their stories of unsanitary living conditions, wrongful billing and more. The complaints are at city-owned affordable housing units for seniors, disabled adults and families.

Common Ground is a citizen-led group that identifies issues faced by local communities. The group held an event Monday night to publicly share claims from residents on how the Housing Authority is being mismanaged. In a video presented to the hundreds in attendance, residents shared their experiences:

"When I moved in, I broke four of my fingers because my wheelchair could barely go through the door in the bedroom," one resident says.

Another resident said they had complained about a bad smell in their building and were told that it was probably garbage. "It was that man, he had been dead in his apartment for 18 days," they say.

No Housing Authority representatives attended the meeting, but Savella McLaurin, a former HACM employee, shared her experience working with the organization.

"When new management came in a few years ago they were only concerned about the money," says McLaurin. "They stopped caring about the residents and their well-being and encouraged us to do the same."

McLaurin quit her job last year after working there for over a decade. She said in recent years, residents often had ledgers with incorrect balances. HACM, serves over 15,000 residents.

"HACM knew a lot of the ledgers were incorrect and did not work on fixing them," she adds. "HACM’s computer system was adding wrongful $30 late fees to residents’ accounts even when they paid on time."

Amy Hall is the marketing and communications officer with the Housing Authority. In an interview, Hall said they’re actively working on corrective action plans with the Housing and Urban Development Field Office to improve its rent assistance department.

"We’re seeing progress already and we’ll continue to do so especially the further we get from the pandemic, which has impacted that particular department pretty hard," Hall says. 

Hall said she hopes residents will soon see improvements in customer service and maintenance.

"We care about our residents. These are their homes — we want them to feel comfortable, safe and live in quality homes," Hall says.

On September 25, Common Ground organizers will attend a Milwaukee Common Council hearing and discuss greater city oversight of the Housing Authority.

Eddie is a WUWM news reporter.
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