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Finding affordable and safe housing is a fundamental concern for many individuals and families in Milwaukee. Fortunately, Milwaukee’s Department of City Development has been working diligently to address this issue through initiatives like “Growing MKE.” In this blog post, we will explore the efforts of the Growing MKE program, which aims to make affordable and secure housing a reality for more residents in the city.

The Housing Challenge in Milwaukee

Milwaukee is a vibrant and diverse city, but like many urban areas, it faces challenges in providing affordable and safe housing for its residents. High rent costs, a shortage of affordable housing units, and the need for improved living conditions have created a significant demand for innovative solutions.

This is where Growing MKE comes in.

What is “Growing MKE”?

Growing MKE is an initiative led by the Department of City Development (DCD) that is making a positive impact on Milwaukee’s housing landscape. This program is a concerted effort to increase affordable and safe housing options for the city’s residents. Growing MKE is making strides toward a better future by combining resources, expertise, and a commitment to equitable housing.

“These plans were shaped through stakeholder and resident input and include recommendations to increase housing supply within the city of Milwaukee. Goals also include supporting new housing that creates walkable urban neighborhoods, increasing transit options and access to jobs, and providing more quality, affordable housing choices for all Milwaukeeans. This project will also advance Mayor Cavalier Johnson’s vision for economic prosperity, which includes updating the City’s Zoning Code to support new development and growth. The project will result in a recommended revision to the Citywide Policy Plan as well as Zoning Code updates,” Growing MKE states on its website.

With help from the city and residents (like you!), Milwaukee areas are looking for new hope and new ownership. Input from the community has been very helpful, as Growing MKE has hosted a few community events, “pop-ups”, and open houses since the summer of 2023. More events are said to be underway this fall, but to get involved with the housing projects go to the Growing MKE website.

Additional Help from Other Organizations

The Community Development Alliance (CDA), is also looking at ways to focus on ‘forever’ affordable housing. The CDA has partnered with Growing MKE in creating an equitable engagement process, as well as, sharing the visions of affordable housing.

“Housing is a primary social determinant of health. It affects everything from educational outcomes to crime in our communities, to job opportunities and overall health. Some of the problems we see in Milwaukee and being on the worst list when it comes to Black and Latino success, the root cause of that is housing and homeownership,” said CDA Chief Alliance Executive Teig Whaley-Smith.

The CDA will bring together parties ranging from banks and donors to residents and builders to debate not only how to construct more affordable housing but also how to keep it affordable for future generations. A partnership with the Milwaukee Community Land Trust is one way the CDA is accomplishing this (on top of supporting Growing MKE).

“We want to make sure that we’re serving people who are in neighborhoods that are at risk of gentrifying. We also want to be able to serve folks that normally, without some type of intervention, would never get into homeownership… This model really helps us serve those people making $15 to $25 an hour,” said Lamont Davis, the Executive Director of the Milwaukee Community Land Trust (MCLT), who is working on a solution through land trusts.

A key factor that makes MCLT houses ‘forever’ affordable is that when the first family to buy the home decides to leave, there is a guarantee that the house will remain at an affordable price for the next homeowners. MCLT is planning on having 30 affordable houses in Milwaukee by 2025. That’s part of CDA’s goal of 100 new affordable homes each year. For more information on MCLT’s mission or to inquire about home ownership go to the MCLT’s website.

How You Can Get Involved

If you are passionate about the cause of affordable and safe housing in Milwaukee, there are several ways to get involved. You can:

  • Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with Growing MKE’s initiatives, the Department of City Development’s work, the Community Development Alliance’s work, and the Milwaukee Community Land Trust to support affordable housing.
  • Volunteer: Many organizations and community groups work alongside Growing MKE (as stated above). Consider volunteering your time and skills to support their efforts.
  • Advocate: Join or support advocacy efforts to raise awareness of the importance of affordable and safe housing. Engage with local officials to ensure this issue remains a priority in Milwaukee.