By Mrinal Gokhale
The 2019 City of Milwaukee Affordability recently stated that 1 in 3 Milwaukee residents spend at least half of their income on their rent.
On Thursday, Dec. 19, Bader Philanthropies announced a $1 million grant for Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. The funds will be used to build 40 new homes and perform 20 critical repairs throughout the Harambee neighborhood over four years.
Bader Philanthropies and Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity held the event in a heated tent where about 50 attended. They were joined by 6th District Ald. Milele Coggs, Mayor Tom Barrett and Haynie Smith, founder of Midtown Neighborhood Alliance who provided remarks.
“As we build and repair homes throughout this neighborhood, we’ll look to replicate the success we’ve seen from our six year effort in the Washington Park neighborhood,” said Brian Sonderman, Executive Director of Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity.
Sonderman stated that blocks in which they built homes have seen a 46 percent decrease in crime and a boost in property values from 2013 to 2018. He also cited a 30 percent higher high school graduation rate among children of Habitat for Humanity homeowners than that of Milwaukee Public Schools.
Haynie Smith was a single father when he dealt with unreliable landlords and homelessness in the Midtown neighborhood.
“I was paying my rent, and my landlord wasn’t paying the mortgage, and that was the second time this happened to my family,” he recalled. That was when he was motivated to become a homeowner.
He has owned his home, built by Habitat for Humanity, since 2017.
Sonderman said that Habitat for Humanity homeowners contribute between 250 to 300 “sweat equity” hours to building their homes and are assisted by volunteers. Their mortgage, down payment, and closing costs are affordable.
“Last year alone, our homeowners experienced a 24 percent reduction in their mortgage costs versus what they previously paid in rent,” he said.
Dan Bader, CEO of Bader Philanthropies, stated that the increased need for homeownership in Harambee was identified after getting to know many area residents over time.
“Everyone seems to have roots in Harambee, whether they grew up here, their parents or grandparents grew up here, their friends grew up here…so many stories. We are here to build those roots,” Bader said.
Ald. Coggs has been a longtime Harambee resident and has seen the work of Habitat for Humanity over the years throughout Milwaukee as well as the district she represents.
“When Bader Philanthropies first decided to make Harambee its home, they expressed their desire to be a help to the neighborhood,” she said.
She added that Bader Philanthropies has been “inclusive with the existing neighbors to figure out what that help should be.”
“The word Harambee is Swahili; it means ‘let’s pull together,” she said. “I think there is no greater example of people pulling together than what we’re here witnessing today to hear about and celebrate.”
Habitat for Humanity will begin this project in spring of 2020.