Report: Racial disparities in homeownership worse in Milwaukee compared with 10 other cities

By: - July 25, 2022 6:00 am
Housing costs saving piggy bank under magnifying glass

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.”


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.