Milwaukee Leaders Look to Revitalize Sherman Park by Selling Foreclosed Homes

Jan 16, 2017

Want to purchase a home for a dollar?

The City of Milwaukee has you covered, as long as you meet certain conditions. The city wants to spend several million state dollars, to help people rehabilitate homes in the Sherman Park neighborhood. The program stems from the unrest that occurred there this summer, after a police officer fatally shot a man, and residents raised a host of challenges the area faces. The rehab plan is angering some interested individuals, because, of its conditions.

Alderman Russell Stamper says that at its very core, Milwaukee’s house rehab program is targeting investors. The city will sell dilapidated houses in the Sherman Park neighborhood for $1, if the buyer purchases at least five of them, has $50,000 in the bank and can bring the properties up to code, within 90-days.

“There’s no stipulation that says one person couldn’t do it, it’s just it’s based on five homes and having the resources to rehab five homes that are on average $50,000 a piece,” Stamper says.

The buyer would also have to hire an unemployed or underemployed person to help with the work for at least 500 hours. Then, for each finished project, the city would give the developer $10,000. The state provided the money for the program. Stamper says the program could bring needed improvements to the neighborhood.

“Just to be clear, that area, the Sherman Park area, is 69 percent owner occupied. There’s home owners over there. So a home owner who has a house (next to it) that’s been left sitting for three to four years, they’re happy. Somebody’s going to come in, rehab this home and put either a home owner in there or somebody that’s looking to be a home owner and make their property and neighborhood look better,” Stamper says.

Stamper says he understands some people are upset about the rehab program, because they don’t qualify. One of those people is Sherman Park resident Vaun Mayes. He says leaving out individuals who don’t have $50,000 in the bank or the ability to bring five properties up to code doesn’t make sense to him.

“At the end of the day, it sounds like it’s about money versus the community,” Mayes says.

Last summer, Mayes started a program in Sherman Park for kids who hang out there. He helped plan activities and feed them. So Mayes says he doesn’t understand why the city will only require developers to hire one underemployed or unemployed person.

“I did construction, you can’t do much with one person. So of course they’ll get to hire their own buddies, their own contractors to do the rest of the work. These are areas that need jobs. These are areas that need the housing. These are areas that need all this kind of stuff and they’re basically handing it over to other people who don’t even live here or have interest in the community,” Mayes says.

Mayes says if he can’t convince city leaders to change the program, then he’ll lobby them to release properties in every district to help address youth homelessness.

Right now, Milwaukee has about 1,300 foreclosed properties on its books, and every quarter, it adds up to 200 more.

Alderman Russell Stamper says it’s great that the Sherman Park rehab program is stirring interest.

“I’m optimistic. I’m thinking positively. I want people to think how can I participate in this program? How can I do business with the city because this is how the city does business? That’s what I want my community to learn. Come down here and think about how can I learn to work with the city? How can I do business, even if you can’t apply for this program,” Stamper says.

Stamper says there are already a number of programs in place that work with individuals interested in purchasing foreclosed, city-owned houses. He says there’s even one that will give people up to $20,000 to help fix up the home.