MILWAUKEE - — The city's finance committee hosted a hearing on Friday to discuss how nearly $400 million in ARPA or American Rescue Plan Act money should be spent. Ahead of that, a group gathered inside of city hall hoping to draw attention to Milwaukee's affordable housing needs, something they've labeled, a crisis
"There are people who are sleeping in their cars or sleeping on the streets because they don't have affordable housing," said Calena Roberts with the Service Employees International Union as she stood at a podium, speaking to a small crowd gathered inside the city hall rotunda. "We live in the United States of America and there is no excuse and no reason for no one not to have a place, a roof over their head. It's fixing to get cold. People need to have a place to sleep."
Reverend Greg Lewis, Executive Director of Soles to the Polls, says the city's own research shows there is a need for 33,000 low income units and 9,000 one family homes and he wants to pressure leaders to reach that goal using ARPA funding. "We would like them to put together a substantial amount of money," Lewis explained. "At least $100 million in a trust fund so we could raise a billion, a billion and a half, two billion — and that would be enough to take care of creating an answer for the housing issue."
Mayor Tom Barrett has already indicated to the council that he wants to see at least $30 million in ARPA money spent to support housing.
Reverend Lewis responded by saying, that's not nearly enough. "It's petty. What is it going to do? That's like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. It's nothing." He is pushing for $70 million more.
Inside Friday's finance committee meeting city leaders talked about a proposal that meets more in the middle at 43 million. No matter the final monetary tally, Mayor Barrett has said the money will be potentially transformative for Milwaukee.
A final vote on how to spend the ARPA funds is expected on November 2nd.