Milwaukee Mayor Faults Suburbs on Low-Income Housing

Milwaukee Mayor Faults Suburbs on Low-Income Housing

At a Marquette University panel discussion, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said suburban politicians aren't applying for federal low-income housing tax credits that would help more poor residents live in their communities. He accused three suburban counties of refusing to seek federal tax credits that would help low-income residents live closer to jobs.         

“I respectfully disagree with the notion that people can live where they want to live,” Barrett said. “Poor people are—by and large—confined to the city of Milwaukee. And it's not an accident.”

Barrett said Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) data back up his charge. WHEDA administers the low-income tax credit program for Wisconsin that subsidizes housing for the poor. According to WHEDA records, in 2014, the city of Milwaukee applied for $6 million in low-income housing credits, but WHEDA approved only $1.8 million of them. That was 15 percent of the $12.7 million in credits approved for all projects statewide. In the previous seven years, the city of Milwaukee got between 30 percent and 44 percent of all statewide low-income housing tax credits approved by WHEDA.

Milwaukee's mayor said he would be satisfied with the lower, 15 percent share if suburban counties were applying for and getting the others instead. But the richer, whiter suburban counties are not, Barrett added.

Only one application for low-income housing tax credits was submitted by any government or organization in the counties that the mayor pointed out this year. It came from Wisconsin Preservation Fund, which asked for $397,793 to subsidize the Main Depot Apartments project in Waukesha. The application was denied.