Leer en español: ¿Necesita reparaciones en el hogar? Así es como encuentras
Denisha Tate-McAllister has been helping homeowners in the Amani neighborhood for years and finds herself hitting the same walls with the many families she serves.
People have a hard time accessing and applying for city resources.
She helps homeowners get funding to make critical repairs on their homes. But despite Milwaukee’s long list of loans and grants for homeowners, getting those critical repairs done has been a struggle for some.
“There are so many requirements and so much documentation needed that people get overwhelmed,” Tate-McAllister said. “I don’t think the people running these programs consider the dynamic of how families of color live.”
She said some homeowners are assisting struggling family members or temporarily housing someone for one reason or another.
“So when you ask for paperwork for every adult in a home, that may not necessarily reflect the actual income of that household,” she said. “It’s also important to acknowledge that if people don’t have certain documents on hand, and not everyone does, it costs money to access them.”
Emmett Gross, the homeownership preservation manager for Housing Resources Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps residents purchase homes, said that even housing experts can struggle to navigate the city’s resources.
Sometimes they “have difficulty keeping up with them,” Gross said. “We (Housing Resources Inc.) are lucky to have a rehab specialist who is great at helping people navigate resources.”
It pays to do your homework
Tracy Polk, the rehab specialist for Housing Resources Inc., said the best way to help yourself is to do your research.
Tate-McAllister said there is a list of things you should know before getting started.
- In some instances, both a homeowner and the home itself must qualify for assistance. Be mindful if the previous owners of your home have utilized the program for which you’re applying. You can be ineligible if they have.
- You should keep copies of key home information such as your home insurance policy. If you weren’t approved for insurance, keep the denial letter as well.
- To apply for city grants and loans, you must be up to date on your bills.
- You are going to have to be comfortable sharing personal information.
Housing Resources Inc. is still running its free homebuyer program, which helps residents prepare to buy a home and walks them through the process. The program helps residents find resources and informs them on home upkeep. The nonprofit also distributes mortgage assistance funds to homeowners experiencing a lack of income due to COVID-19.
Tanz Rome, the business operations manager for the City of Milwaukee, said documentation often holds up the process for people to get help. But providing it is essential.
“If the application asks for it, you have to give it,” she said.
Rome also said that it’s important to know that programs are limited. She said once a program reaches capacity, you can go on a waiting list for the next year.
“There is not an endless amount of resources,” she said. “But the goal is to abate tax violations and make homes safe.”
She said a common fear in seeking assistance is that you can get into trouble by making the city aware of a problem.
“That is a misconception,” Rome said. “The goal is not to get you; we don’t do that.”
Here’s where you can get help
The Social Development Commission can assist with lead abatement, weatherization and other housing-related issues. You can call 414-906-2700.
Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council can help homeowners protect themselves from mortgage and foreclosure prevention scams as well as from predatory home loans. You can call 414-278-1240.
Housing Resources Inc. can provide counseling to homeowners and has programs to help people avoid foreclosure. You can call 414-461-6330.
Acts Housing provides counseling and real estate agent representation to help low-income families transition from renting to homebuying. You can call 414-933-2215.
Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee: The Housing Authority’s Section 32 program offers guidance through the homebuying process and sells rehabilitated homes to low-income residents. The agency offers some grants and subsidies for down-payment assistance and forgivable second mortgages for current Housing Authority homeowners. You can call 414-286-5405.
Bronzeville Resident Homeownership Initiative: The Bronzeville Homebuyer Assistance Program provides forgivable loans of up to $25,000 and technical assistance to help with property renovation for residents buying city-owned foreclosed homes in the Bronzeville Initiative area. You can call 414-286-5608.
Common Ground-Milwaukee Rising: Milwaukee Rising rehabilitates and sells foreclosed properties in the Sherman Park neighborhood. Matching grants of up to $5,000 are available for homeowners wanting to make repairs and improvements. Contact Bob Connolly at email@example.com for more information.
Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, or WHEDA, offers resources for homebuyers.
Housing Help will directly connect you with city homeowners’ resources.
Take Root Milwaukee offers free or low-cost services that can help you buy, keep, or fix a home. For more information you can call 414-921-4149.