Without going into whether or not this is a good use of taxpayer money, it is clear that it has nothing to do with the pandemic. The COVID relief bills have very little to do with COVID relief.
The legislation proposes using $150 million the city received through the American Rescue Plan Act. The city is getting more than $394 million in ARPA funding, and to date it has received an initial infusion of more than $197 million.
According to a news release, $105 million would be given to the Department of City Development to rehabilitate the city-owned single-family and duplex homes. The homes would specifically be those that were already foreclosed on because of unpaid property taxes. Renovations would cost $150,000 per home on average. It would provide about 1,000 housing units.
Another $35 million would go to the Housing Trust Fund to develop new and renovated affordable housing in partnership with private developers, non-profit organizations and other groups.
Another $9 million would be used to increase capacity with various DCD affordable-housing programs. They include, among others, the rental rehabilitation program, homebuyer assistance program and Bronzeville homeownership program.
“There are thousands of Milwaukeeans struggling to pay their rent and mortgages, and members of the public frequently expressed their support for the city to invest in and expand affordable housing throughout Milwaukee during three recent town hall-style ARPA virtual listening sessions hosted by members of the Common Council,” Bauman said in a statement. “The ARPA funds are meant to be transformative, to be used for helping communities recover by addressing vital needs. In my view, directly addressing our affordable housing crisis and providing shelter is absolutely what the funding is meant for.”
The city owns a substantial inventory of one- and two-family homes that have been acquired through in-rem foreclosure. They are mostly vacant and in various states of disrepair.