Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash
Milwaukee has larger racial disparities in homeownership than 10 other peer cities across the country, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum. The disparities have worsened over the last 12 years since the Great Recession.
Using the U.S. Census Bureau data covering the five years from 2016 to 2020, the report found that 55.8% of the white population owned their homes in Milwaukee, in line with other cities at 55.8%. Among Hispanic residents, 38.5% owned their homes, the third-lowest rate among the cities in the comparison. The number of African Americans who owned their own homes in Milwaukee, the rate was 25.2%, the lowest among the peer cities.
Milwaukee is often called both the state’s economic engine; it is also one of the most segregated cities in the country. “Such differences may relate to the economic characteristics in the group of peer cities and some of those factors may lie beyond local housing stakeholders’ immediate control,” the report found. “At a minimum, these findings suggest that advancing racial equity in homeownership is both urgent and difficult in Milwaukee.” Peer cities used in the analysis included Albuquerque; Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, El Paso, Fresno, Kansas City, Memphis, Tampa, and Tucson.
The report also found that since the Great Recession and the subsequent foreclosure crisis, homeownership in Milwaukee had the third-largest decrease in homeownership for Black and Hispanic residents of the 11 cities, 6.8%. While the number of Black households in Milwaukee increased 2.3% since 2010, Black homeownership declined by 24.6%.
The report also highlights that a large amount of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds in Milwaukee have gone to home rehabilitation rather than higher-cost services like home financing.
Increasing homeownership in Milwaukee was a campaign promise of Mayor Cavalier Johnson when he was elected in early 2022. In late June, Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto introduced legislation to increase access to homeownership through loans for families to refinance their homes or make health and safety improvements. The legislation also simplifies administration of two federal home financing programs, while increasing congressional oversight.
Moore said the measure would combat housing inequality. “To address the stark racial homeownership gap in Milwaukee,” said Moore, “we must use every tool in the toolkit to put the goal of homeownership in closer reach to our residents.”
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