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Grants for first-time home buyers help to tackle racial gaps in homeownership in Milwaukee

Home for Sale in Sherman Park
Posted at 5:24 AM, Nov 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-10 07:35:06-05

MILWAUKEE — The journey to homeownership is tougher for some than it is for others, but there are resources and programs in our community aiming to battle some of the barriers that exist.

A perfect example of someone who has had success using those resources is Alisa Ferguson, a first time home buyer who closed on her house in the Grasslyn Manor neighborhood on Milwaukee's north side in late October of 2021.

"It feels good. Just to know that this is ours," she said about the home.

She had lived there for six years as a renter, and when it was put up for sale, she knew she was ready to take that big step towards homeownership.

She got pre-approved, but then her dreams were almost put on hold when her fiancé was hurt.

"He had a motorcycle accident. So, by him not working it just stopped the process for a while," said Ferguson.

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Alisa Ferguson

The dream did not go away. Ferguson, a mother of two, was determined to be a homeowner. More specifically, a black homeowner in a city that is 38.7% African American, according to Census data, but where less than 27.6% of owner-occupied homes are owned by African American residents.


To keep those dreams of homeownership alive, Housing Resources Inc stepped in.

"We assist with overcoming the barriers and the obstacles that they have, so that they can obtain generational wealth," said Katrina Weinberg, Housing Resources Inc. Homeownership Center Manager.

The organization connects with low and moderate level income individuals and educates them on things like credit, lending, insurance and budgeting - equipping them with everything they need to purchase a home.

"We are the first step in homeownership," said Weinberg.

Housing Resources Inc. also connects individuals to grants like the Milwaukee home down payment program. That particular program can help secure a forgivable $5,000 to $7,000 grant to use for down payment and closing costs.

It's money that was rolled out in mid-June of 2021. So far, 95% of the grant recipients are African American.


"It’s a fantastic way for our community to really buy back our community," said Weinberg. "Really when you rent, that’s just a place to stay. But when you purchase a home, you become a part of the community and you have so much more pride in where you live."

That pride and stability that comes along with homeownership is something Alisa Ferguson is now experiencing.

"I guess I feel that nobody can put us out, nobody could change their mind about our homeownership or whatever the case might be, because this is ours now," she said.

She is already hard at work remodeling her home and putting in sweat equity. She's also working to build a safer neighborhood while she's at it, even combating reckless driving outside her front door.

"We went door to door, got a petition and you see what’s out there. We got speed bumps. You know? It was just with me going door-to-door, me and my daughter, and me having communication with the homeowners that have been over here for the years," said Ferguson.

Ferguson says more people achieving the American Dream in this way can lead to a better Milwaukee for all.

"I think if we have more homeowners in our communities, it would be a better place to live," she said.

She also says homeownership is something that she believes everyone can achieve by setting goals and connecting with the right resources.

"You’ll make it. I did and I’m very happy," she said.

To connect with Housing Resources INC, you can call 414-461-6330 or visit their website

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