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Affordable housing project kicks off to combat disparities in Harambee

Posted at 5:47 PM, Apr 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-08 11:28:39-04

MILWAUKEE — A new project in Milwaukee is underway to help residents living in low-income communities become homeowners.

"I think it's a good idea that they're building these homes," said Caldon Beamon.

Caldon Beamon has been renting in the Harambee neighborhood for the past five years, but never really thought about taking the next step.

"I didn't always want to own a home," said Beamon.

That is until now. Thanks to a new project led by Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity, 80 brand-new affordable three and four-bedroom homes with mortgages between $500-$800 a month will be built right in Caldon's neighborhood - giving her hope that she could soon become a first-time homebuyer.

"I'm right next door, maybe that'll be a good thing for me. Maybe I could move next door" said Beamon.

"It lifts up the spirits of not just the folks who will be owning those homes, it's going to be life-changing for them, but it also changes the dynamic of the neighborhood," said Lafayette Crump, commissioner of city development.

The Harambee Affordable Homeownership Project is part of a larger initiative Habitat for Humanity and the city of Milwaukee are spearheading. The idea is to help more than 200 families living throughout Milwaukee's northwest side own their own homes, rather than rent, over the next four years. This also addresses deep-rooted racial disparities in the county.

Officials say systemic inequalities of redlining that were created back in the 1930s have led to significant housing disparities in Milwaukee.

"It created neighborhoods like Harambee and others and said these are off-limits. In essence, they're too high risk for banks to invest in and for the federal government to invest in and it made it almost impossible for people of color to get a loan," said Executive Director for Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity, Brian Sonderman.

As a result of that redlining in Milwaukee, nearly three out of four Black families do not own the home they live in, compared to nearly three out of four white families who do. Taking a closer look TMJ4 also found that 22% of residents living in Harambee own the home they live in, compared to 82% of residents living in Whitefish Bay, 69% living in Glendale, and 46% living in Shorewood.

"That type of systemic inequality has created generations of families who never got to achieve what we classify as the American dream of homeownership," said Sonderman.

Applications to own one of these homes are now open, and completion for each house is expected to take between six and seven months.

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