housing

Maayan Silver / WUWM

There could soon be help for some people struggling to pay rent because COVID has cut into their income. The Milwaukee Common Council will vote Tuesday on whether to accept $17 million in federal funding from the latest COVID relief bill.

That money would add to the nearly $16 million dollars for renters in the city, already earmarked from the CARES Act.

But, while the funding will help many, city officials say it’s not enough to assist everyone facing eviction.

For months, the warning was clear from economists, housing advocates and public health experts: Without more help from Congress, millions of Americans could be evicted, in the dead of winter, in the middle of a raging pandemic.

"I can't construct a darker scenario," Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi told NPR in November. "It's absolutely critical that lawmakers step up."

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The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened economic stability for many Milwaukeeans, but for renters there has been some protection due to a moratorium on evictions. That thin safety net halting some evictions is due to dissolve at the end of the year without congressional action. This means there's a looming eviction crisis hanging over the heads of a lot of Wisconsin households.

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A Milwaukee collaboration aimed at reducing housing evictions is being launched Monday. The Rental Housing Resource Center is billed as a one-stop shop for renters and landlords who need help in providing or maintaining stable rental housing.

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One of the defining issues in the latter days of President Trump’s presidential campaign was low-income housing. The president claimed that President-elect Joe Biden would force suburban communities to build low-income housing, which Trump claimed would bring crime and lower home values.

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An affordable housing project is breathing new life into a 130-year-old school building in Milwaukee. The city's Department of City Development plans to turn the dilapidated building that used to be the McKinley School into apartments for low-income individuals.

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In 2008, Matthew Desmond began studying eviction and poverty here in Milwaukee. That research became the book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, which explores the impact of evictions on Milwaukee’s most vulnerable communities. Now, Milwaukee is once again staring down an eviction crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in soaring unemployment and eviction filings are beginning to mount. 

Millions of Americans are facing the threat of eviction as a federal moratorium that has protected renters during the pandemic is set to expire Friday.

That eviction moratorium, coupled with unemployment assistance established in the CARES Act, has helped some renters stay in their homes.

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The affordable housing crisis has been continuing to grow in the U.S. over the last decade. But the COVID-19 pandemic and record-high unemployment have exacerbated an already struggling system.

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When the state of Wisconsin first announced safer-at-home orders in March, it also ordered a temporary ban on evictions and foreclosures. Unlike the coronavirus pandemic, the order was limited to a 60-day-period that ended in May. Now, as COVID-19 infections are spiking, so too are evictions.

Wisconsin's Coronavirus Eviction Ban Has Expired. Here's What Renters Need To Know

May 29, 2020
Adam Carr / Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide ban on evictions expired on May 26, leaving renters at risk of losing housing during a pandemic that has left hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites unemployed.

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Updated at 2:55 p.m. CT

Wisconsin residents who lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic can get help paying their rent, and farmers will be eligible for direct cash payments, under new programs Gov. Tony Evers announced Wednesday.

The $50 million aid to farmers program, $25 million rental assistance program and another $15 million for food banks and those fighting hunger is all paid for under the federal coronavirus relief bill.

Susan Bence

COVID-19 has turned our economy upside down. While Milwaukee leaders are trying to figure out how to fund the city’s budget and continue providing services, many residents worry how far their funds will stretch.

On Monday, the Judiciary and Legislation Committee spent most of the afternoon discussing a proposal to freeze property assessment at last year’s level until further notice.

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As stay-at-home orders have been extended in most states due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s been a greater focus on housing more generally. Skyrocketing unemployment and uncertainty about the future has made it more difficult for people to make rent.

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The 2008 economic recession hit Milwaukee hard. The housing market wasn’t spared and with it came a wave of foreclosures. Property values still haven’t quite recovered in many neighborhoods throughout the city.

Maayan Silver

Around half a million people need legal aid in Wisconsin and can't afford it. One main reason they need legal aid: eviction.

That's why Legal Action of Wisconsin — the largest provider of legal aid services for low income people in southeastern Wisconsin — set up the Eviction Defense Project.

Philip Montgomery

Every year, there are thousands of evictions in Milwaukee County. A new exhibition based on the best-selling book Evicted brings the crisis to life.

The exhibition is in an event space called the Mobile Design Box on Milwaukee's near west side — minutes away from Marquette’s campus. When you walk through the doors, you're greeted by a bright yellow banner with the word "evicted" written across it.

LaToya Dennis

When the U.S. housing bubble burst in 2008, the country was launched into the most severe recession since the Great Depression. For many families, this meant the loss of the family home.

Between 2006 and 2014, around 9 million American families lost homes due to foreclosure. There have been many studies on the ways foreclosure impacts someone's personal and professional life, but a recent study analyzed its impact on someone's political life.

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If you’ve bought or sold a house recently, or just seen the forest of for sale signs around town, you know the Milwaukee real estate market is hot right now. Demand is outstripping supply in many parts of town. 

READ: 'Milwaukee Magazine' 2019 Real Estate Guide Demonstrates The City's Cresting Housing Market

UW-Milwaukee SALUP

In 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy launched its first solar decathlon, giving college teams the opportunity to design energy-efficient houses powered by renewable energy. Since its inception, more than 150 collegiate teams from around the world have participated.

Teran Powell

The City of Milwaukee Housing Authority was granted $2.3 million Wednesday to help promote the economic advancement of public housing residents.

Milwaukee is one of a handful of cities that will get a chunk of a $14 million Jobs Plus grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Brian Tomaino / Courtesy of Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee

Throughout the month of May, neighborhoods around the country are hostings events called “Jane’s Walks.” The walks honor the work of the late Jane Jacobs, an advocate for the needs of everyday people in urban planning. The walks are citizen-led and are aimed at spurring conversations about the neighborhoods and the people who live in them.

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Rental assistance recipients could soon be considered a protected class in Milwaukee County. A new proposal relating to fair housing would ban landlords from refusing to rent to people in housing assistance programs. 

The plan is expected to go before a county board committee later this month.

Current federal law does not require landlords to accept housing choice vouchers, therefore they can legally refuse to rent to voucher holders.

Marti Mikkelson

Community leaders are hoping a $10,000 grant will help Milwaukee get its arms around the ongoing issue of eviction. The money will go toward developing a long-term plan to keep people in their homes. 

Mayor Tom Barrett announced the grant Wednesday from the “Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin” Endowment at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

For many poor families in America, eviction is a real and ongoing threat. Sociologist Matthew Desmond estimates that 2.3 million evictions were filed in the U.S. in 2016 — a rate of four every minute.

"Eviction isn't just a condition of poverty; it's a cause of poverty," Desmond says. "Eviction is a direct cause of homelessness, but it also is a cause of residential instability, school instability [and] community instability."

LaToya Dennis

Every year in Milwaukee, thousands of eviction notices are filed. The state Senate is expected to take up legislation later this month that critics say unfairly favors landlords -- and would increase the number of evictions. Republican proponents maintain it’s about ensuring quality housing for tenants in the most affordable way to landlords.

Poor families in the United States are having an increasingly difficult time finding an affordable place to live, due to high rents, static incomes and a shortage of housing aid. Tenant advocates worry that the new tax bill, as well as potential cuts in housing aid, will make the problem worse.

Christine Thompson is eager to leave the two bedroom apartment she rents in a shabby house on the north side of Milwaukee. There are so many things wrong with the place.

"In the bathroom I have to turn my shower on in order for the light to come on. And when I turn the shower off, the light goes off," she says.

The apartment also has mice, cockroaches, and so many bedbugs that she and her sons — ages 3 and 7 — sleep on an air mattress on the dining room floor, where's there's no carpet. She also has no oven or stove, and water leaking from the ceiling.

Jeramey Jannene / Flickr

Cities around the country are facing an affordable housing crisis and Milwaukee is no different. That's one of the reasons this year's Henry W. Maier State of Milwaukee Summit at UWM is focusing on the city's on-going issues with housing. 

This year's topic also pays tribute to the 50th anniversary of the March on Milwaukee and the fight for fair housing in the city. 

Courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society

The late Lloyd Barbee is perhaps best known as the lawyer and state legislator who fought to desegregate Milwaukee’s public schools. A new book lays out just how broad Barbee’s fight for justice was.

Beyond education, Barbee pushed for open housing, women’s rights, and decolonization. He would often sign his letters with the quote - “Justice For All.” And that’s the title of the new book, Justice for All: Selected Writings of Lloyd A. Barbee.

The book is edited by his daughter -- another civil rights attorney -- Daphne Barbee-Wooten.

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