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Halyard Park residents fear gentrification, being taxed-out after latest property assessments

Halyard Park
Posted at 9:49 PM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-26 23:14:12-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee residents are receiving property assessments in the mail. Every district in the city saw an increase from 10% to nearly 32%, with an average of 17.7% across the city.

Many residents have now expressed concerns about rising property tax increases.

Last week, Milwaukee Commissioner of Assessments Nicole Larsen told TMJ4, "A good rule of thumb is if your assessment is lower than general city wide average, then you shouldn't experience an increase in taxes."

In District 6, where the Halyard Park and Harambee neighborhoods are located, property assessments went up 20%.

District 7, where the Sherman Park neighborhood is located, saw an increase of nearly 32%.

Property assessments by district

Reggie Jackson, the lead trainer at Nurturing Diversity Partners and a Milwaukee historian, said a big reason for those increases is homes selling for far more than they traditionally have in those neighborhoods.

"That has been a really, really big factor. People who were looking to purchase homes, they simply weren't able to compete with these people that could just come in and write a check or pay cash, for a home," Jackson said. "That's impacting everybody in the end. People just can't pay what these corporate landlords are paying the property."

Reggie Jackson
Reggie Jackson, Nurturing Diversity Partners Lead Trainer

The increases in these neighborhoods don't only impact homeowners, but renters as well who are likely to see any tax increase passed on by their landlords.

"Eventually people get priced out of the rent and people get priced out of the homes that they've owned for a number of years, because their property taxes are so high they can't afford to pay for it," Jackson said. "They're just living and trying to live the American dream, become a homeowner. Or, if they're a renter, just trying to live in a stable neighborhood. Now these neighborhoods are being destabilized."

Jackson said if this trend continues, these neighborhoods could soon see gentrification move in like it did in the Brewers Hill and Riverwest neighborhoods.

Halyard Park

"Halyard Park is one of those neighborhoods where they're very concerned. It's a very specific Black suburb that was built within the city in the late 70's, early 80's," Jackson said.

According to the Milwaukee encyclopedia from UW-Milwaukee, "Halyard Park is one of the longest-standing, Black, middle-class, residential neighborhoods within Bronzeville."

Freida Webb lived in Halyard Park as a teenager, rollerskating and playing baseball in the alleyways. She bought a house in the neighborhood in 1979. She said she loves the accessibility of the neighborhood.

"From the library to the Clinton Rose Center to the people I know and the things I'm comfortable with," Webb said about why she loves her neighborhood.

Freida Webb
Freida Webb, Halyard Park resident

In recent years, Webb and her neighbors have seen more and more development come to the area around Halyard Park.

Halyard Park Neighborhood association president Lennie Mosley said a lot of that development is a good thing and hopes it will enhance the area.

"It's gonna have more jobs for our neighborhood, and areas for the seniors to go, hopefully have an area for the youth to go," Mosley said.

But there's also a downside as property assessments, and potentially property taxes, increase.

"Good things are happening, but the negative is gentrification," Mosley said.

Lennie Mosley
Lennie Mosley, Halyard Park Neighborhood Association President

Webb is also concerned about the potential of gentrification if she and her neighbors get priced-out.

"People who never thought about it, white, young people. When a number of people are aging out or passing away, we have people who you wouldn't have though were interested are buying newer homes and older homes in this area. Many of them are much more affluent than the present generational homeowners," Webb said.

Many of those older homeowners are on a fixed-income. For those still working, Mosley said income isn't increasing at the rate property values are.

"If you keep asking people with a an income of $40,000 for two people in the household and you have a property tax that's $10,000, how are you going to pay that? It's impossible," Mosley said.

If residents in Halyard Park end up being taxed-out of their homes like many of them fear, it could mean losing the community that built the neighborhood.

"It loses its history, its support systems, its comfort level, everything that creates a support system in particular as they age," Webb said. "I would think we want not to continue these economic inequities and basically acknowledge that seniors, in particular African American seniors, should not be displaced based upon property tax assessment increases."

In an interview with TMJ4 last week, the Milwaukee Commissioner of Assessments said ultimately increases in property taxes depend on the tax levy which will get set in the summer. Residents won't officially know what the change in their property tax is, if any, until tax bills come in December.

For Webb, a higher tax rate on her December bill would mean needing to go back to work.

"It would mean I would need to get a job, okay? Not just a job, but job that affords me the ability to pay those additional funds and basically maintain the property as it should be maintained," she said.

There is an anti-displacement fund to help residents who are concerned they'll be taxed-out of their homes. The fund was established in 2019 "to provide grants to help ensure that long-time, income eligible homeowners living in near downtown neighborhoods are not displaced due to increasing property taxes associated with rising property values and new development."

Right now the anti-displacement fund is in a five-year pilot program, but fundraising is continuing to hopefully expand the program to 15-20 years.

"We know each other, and we look after each other, it's important that we keep that. I don't know any other neighborhood like Halyard Park," Mosley said.

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