Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Milwaukee And The Housing Crisis

Jennifer Epps-Addison is a wonderful woman and a great asset to the Milwaukee area.  Unbeknownst to me until recently, she also does this thing called blogging at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

She recently penned a must read article about how Milwaukee is the third hardest hit community of its size when it comes to the housing crisis and how a large percentage of Milwaukee area families are facing the risk of losing their homes which went underwater due to the Bush/Cheney recession of 2008.

Even more significant is the solution she offered:
The housing crisis is far from over, so what do we do? How do we make a dent when the problem is so widespread? The authors of the report (housing experts at several universities across the country) argue that market forces alone will not bring the recovery to these severely impacted communities. They call for loan holders to take responsibility for causing the crisis in the first place. Where loan holders fail to act, the authors call on elected officials and local municipalities to use all of the tools available to them to help right the ship.  I couldn't agree more!

We need local and federal action to address the crisis and ensure a real recovery- one that puts people over corporate subsidies and doesn’t leave entire neighborhoods behind. First, loan holders and investors should reduce the principal on underwater mortgages to current market values. Banks and enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac claim they don’t want to foreclose, but when people can’t get out of their mortgage by selling, foreclosures are bound to happen. If loan holders refuse to act responsibly, we should use local and federal options to facilitate turning already foreclosed homes and vacant properties into affordable housing by selling them to publicly owned or nonprofit entities. One community that has an innovative plan to address underwater mortgages by using “reverse eminent domain” to resent [sic] home values to their current market value is Richmond, California. Certainly, the City of Milwaukee should look at this option as one potential tool in their toolbox.

We don’t have to continue to sit back and watch our community’s ability to build generational wealth completely disappear. The Wisconsin Idea demands that our elected officials explore all options at their disposal to more effectively address Milwaukee’s housing crisis. In the end, we cannot begin to address the impacts of segregation and poverty, without addressing the nearly 40 percent of homeowners that are underwater in Milwaukee.

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