For the last 29 years, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity has been building homes with low-income families. This month, the organization takes on a new challenge: renovating a dilapidated foreclosed property into a decent home. Mayor Tom Barrett has signed the deed to the home at 1321 North 36th Street over to Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity, and the organization will begin demolition work on its first rehab project in over a decade. This property is located across from five homes Habitat built in 2005 on the same street. Habitat’s goal is to help bring additional stabilization to the block.
Milwaukee Habitat will convert the duplex property into a single-family home, with complete exterior and interior renovation of the structure’s five bedrooms, kitchen and two bathrooms. Some of the work includes removing upper porch, installing new siding, insulation, furnace, windows, electrical, sewer laterals, fixtures and appliances, as well as landscaping and pouring a new parking pad. Milwaukee Habitat estimates that the total project cost will be approximately $125,000.
While Milwaukee Habitat will continue to build new homes, it is transitioning the focus of its construction work to include rehab and repair projects. This year, the organization introduced a new Home Preservation program to help low-income homeowners make affordable home repairs, and this rehab is the first of six they hope in complete in the next 18 months.
“It’s about meeting the needs of the community,” said Brian Sonderman, executive director of Milwaukee Habitat. “This house has been vacant for 11 months and boarded up for since February of this year and deemed uninhabitable by the City, and it’s just one of hundreds of foreclosures in the Washington Park neighborhood. We can build new houses around the foreclosures, but if they continue to attract crime and bring down property values, that’s not a solution and it’s not a safe situation for our partner families. This new rehab program is another step in our effort to help transform Washington Park into a safe, vibrant community.”
In recent years, Milwaukee Habitat has found it more cost-efficient to construct new homes from the ground up, but now, with the support of the City of Milwaukee, the organization will be able to purchase city-owned foreclosures and utilize Community Development Grants Administration funding to help restore the property. The arrangement has benefits for both entities.
“Milwaukee Habitat is breathing new life into this house, and that is a far better outcome than demolition or continued decay,” said Mayor Barrett. “This is not just about one house; it’s about a neighborhood and the people who live nearby. It is an investment in the strength of the City.”
Barrett sees tremendous potential in the City’s new partnership with Milwaukee Habitat. “It provides a way to take these properties and turn them into good homes that will give hardworking families the chance to become homeowners.”
“This is a great transition for Habitat and for Washington Park,” agreed Alderman Willie Hines. “In Milwaukee, we unfortunately have an abundance of vacant houses. Restoring them like this, with volunteers and members of the community, I believe it’s going to be a benefit not just to whoever buys the home, but for everyone in the neighborhood, especially when combined with all the new homes and other repair projects. You really begin to see the impact on the community.”
Like its new construction program, Milwaukee Habitat is conducting this rehab project with community volunteers and the home’s future owner, a first-time homebuyer who will purchase the house with an affordable, zero-interest mortgage. Families interested in purchasing a rehab or new construction home, or participating in the home repairs program should contact the organization to learn more about the guideline, income qualifications, and “sweat equity” requirements at 414-562-6100 or visit the website atwww.milwaukeehabitat.org.
For Milwaukee Habitat, the rehab program encompasses their strategy of transformation – not just building homes, but changing lives and communities. “Milwaukee Habitat’s goal is to provide safe, affordable homes for families, while at same time helping to improve the entire neighborhood,” said Sonderman. “We’re excited for this new partnership with the city and the opportunity to help more families achieve homeownership.”