WISCONSIN — New research from Wisconsin Policy Forum is showing racial disparities in homeownership extend far beyond Milwaukee.
According to a news release from Wisconsin Policy Forum, disparities are even greater statewide and in cities like Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, and Racine.
The city of Milwaukee has a 29-percentage point gap in Black-white homeownership, according to the research. That's lower than the state's 47 points and the gaps in Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, and Racine which range from 37 points to 56.
We first caught up with Simone Kilgore back in July inside the place she now rents. She lost her dream home following her divorce in 2014.
"I had trouble finding information on refinancing and getting the support I needed around refinancing on my own, utilizing just my salary," said Kilgore.
And unfortunately, that's been the case for a lot of Black and Latino families living in Milwaukee since the beginning of the recession in 2008.
"That was a big turning point. We've lost 12 to 13% of our owner-occupied homes to rental units over the last decade which is just a huge problem," said Chief Development & Marketing Officer for ACTS Housing, Kelly Andrew.
The research also shows racial homeownership gaps in Wisconsin are larger than they are nationally, and the gaps have deepened over the last decade.
Wisconsin Policy Forum said the Black-white disparity widened by nearly six percentage points, while the Hispanic-white disparity widened by two points.
"It is distressing to see that statewide things aren't getting better," said Brian Sonderman, the executive director for Milwaukee's Habitat for Humanity.
While the numbers aren't great, the Wisconsin Policy Forum did point out noteworthy efforts underway across the state to combat racial disparity in homeownership.
They mentioned Milwaukee's affordable housing strategic plan, and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority’s (WHEDA) emergent African American & Latino Homeownership Initiative.
So what do housing advocates do to try and close the housing gap that they haven't tried already? Some say more pressure needs to be put on government officials to create a housing trust fund that would provide funding to support the preservation and production of affordable housing.
"The state of Wisconsin right now has no affordable housing trust fund. We have a budget surplus that can be prioritized and affordable housing ought to be prioritized," said Sonderman.
But Kilgore says the underlying systemic racism that has kept many from becoming homeowners for so long needs to be dealt with.
"We ended up working with a specific group in Milwaukee that we really felt could have shared a lot more with us and did a lot more in terms of education. It's really an opportunity for us to dismantle racist systems, discriminatory system practices, and rebuild it up so that it's inclusive for everyone to experience the American dream," said Kilgore.
Wisconsin Policy Forum said they will be releasing a new report this spring or summer that examines peer cities that are demographically similar to Milwaukee but are more equitable in regard to homeownership.