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Developers, state officials discuss bridging housing gap in Milwaukee and Wisconsin

Posted at 6:43 PM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 19:43:12-04

MILWAUKEE — In a conversation lasting almost two hours, developers from across Wisconsin met with state officials. There was one goal: To find ways to close the housing gap in communities of color.

"It's not an urban issue, not just a regional issue, this is a statewide issue," said Secretary for the Department of Administration, Joel Brennan.

"We need new energy and new voices in the development process," said the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority Founder and CEO, Joaquín Altoro.

"If we're going to be bouncing back from this pandemic and better, then it's time to invest in Wisconsin's ingenuity, innovation, and the people who are going to build to start a future we want for our state," said Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.

One by one, developers met, brainstormed, and shared ideas and the struggles they face when trying to build affordable housing in areas that need it the most.

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"Some of the barriers include eliminating the stigma associated with affordable housing and changing what that looks like," said Brandon Rule, of Rule Enterprises.

"In this time it's difficult to develop, we are very aware. Construction costs is rising and there are many challenges," said Shreedhar Ranabhat, a commercial lender with WHEDA.

60% of Milwaukee residents rent their living space, which is the 8th highest in the country. When it comes to owning a home, just 27.4% of African Americans in the city are homeowners. That's the second-lowest in the country.

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"We can do everything we can to build housing and build for the future, but there's an immediate need that we need to meet in our communities," said Brennan.

And with a budget proposal now on the table to increase the state's housing tax credit program from $42 million to $100 million, officials say it's more important than ever to find ways to advance affordable housing with representation from communities of color.

"Tax credits are increasing, social equity and expanding economic opportunity," said Altoro.

Officials add that they will continue to have discussions like this in order to get one step closer to bridging that housing gap and making homes accessible to all.

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