According to a Wisconsin Policy Forum report, Milwaukee has the worst racial disparity in homeowner rates among a dozen peer cities in 2020, and efforts to improve it have not helped.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the study by authors Ned Littlefield and Joe Peterangelo examined how the city’s racial inequities in homeownership compare with peer cities. The report builds on earlier research by the forum showing that most Black residents in the city are renters and are rent-burdened (spending more than 30% of their income on their rent) at twice the rate of white households.
The study adds just 1 in 4 Black households owned their home in 2020 compared with more than half of white households in Milwaukee.
Additional findings in the report include:
- The combined Black and Hispanic homeowner rates were 28.9% compared with the white homeowner rate of 55.8%
- Even as the number of Black households rose 2.3% between 2010-20, homeownership decreased 24.6%. The number of white households in the city fell by 12.2%, and homeownership decreased 15%. Only Hispanic households, which grew 24.7%, had a corresponding increase of 19%.
- Between 2010-19, the city used 21% of its combined Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership Program funds — totaling $37.5 million — for homeownership services.
- With CDBG grants, the city spent $64 on home rehab for every $1 it spent on homebuyer financing. With HOME funds, the city spent $4 on home rehab for every $1 spent on all other homeownership services.
Milwaukee’s decades of housing discrimination are among the top reasons for the city’s low Black homeownership rates. Racially restrictive agreements excluded Black residents from being able to purchase or rent homes in higher-income areas. Additionally, the Federal Housing Administration’s practice of redlining devalued homes and reduced loan access in communities of color.
Milwaukee received roughly $20 million in CDBG and HOME funds, representing two-thirds of the nearly $30 million the city received in homeownership programs between 2014 and 2018.
However, the funds for home acquisition remain low, and the majority of the funds were used to help existing homeowners with rehabilitation instead of increasing minority homeownership. According to the Journal Sentinel, just $3.5 million of the program’s $30 million was spent on increasing homeownership.
One of the reasons Milwaukee struggles with minority homeownership is it lacks a dedicated agency to oversee its housing programs. Something the report’s authors noted could help the city more effectively coordinate its efforts to achieve racial parity in homeownership.
The city’s new focus on racial equity in homeownership is offering new promise for potential Black homeowners in Milwaukee. The Community Development Alliance, comprised of government, philanthropic, and community leaders, is now working toward preserving and acquiring homes for the city’s Black and Hispanic residents.