The Urban League of Greater Madison has launched a $ 5 million initiative to help more black Madisonians own their own homes.
Ruben Anthony, President and CEO of the Urban League, said his organization is in the process of buying 15-17 homes that will be renovated and sold to middle-to-low-income Madison families who have struggled to buy a home. Families buying the houses do not have a deposit.
"We need to make sure we step in to make sure the home ownership is available to everyone in Madison's community here," said Anthony as he announced the plan at the Urban League office on the south side.
Anthony noted that this area of the city is becoming increasingly gentrified, crowding out lower income families as it evolves. He said Madison needs to make sure there are still "homes that ordinary people can afford" here.
Over the next year, local nonprofit Operation Fresh Start, which is helping young people aged 16 to 24 to complete their education and gain professional skills, including construction, will be helping with home renovations. Anthony said some of the houses will be ready in the next 30 to 60 days.
Anthony was accompanied by program partners Mayor Satya Rhode-Conway and Joaquin Altoro, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. WHEDA is donating nearly $ 3.5 million to support the initiative and the City of Madison is contributing $ 200,000. Federal tax credits will also provide financial assistance.
"Bridging the home ownership gap between colored people is critical today," Altoro said.
In a 2020 report by the National Association of Realtors, Wisconsin was the third worst state in the country for its home ownership rate among African Americans. Only 23% of African Americans in Wisconsin were homeowners in 2018, compared with 71% of white Wisconsinites, the report said. Only two states had a lower black home ownership rate, and Maine was linked to Wisconsin for the third worst, also at a rate of 23%.
Dane County's home ownership rate is even lower for black households, according to the City of Madison, with an ownership rate of just 12%.
A 2019 report by the Dane County Housing Initiative found that while income disparities contribute to differences in home ownership and housing, African-American and Hispanic households still experienced disproportionate housing stress at the same income levels as white households.
Rhodes-Conway said colored households are also more likely to be denied mortgage finance than white households.
"Can't stand that," she said. "This cannot go on."
Rhodes-Conway says the new program builds on previous efforts by the Urban League and Madison to help more than 50 families of black go from renters to homeowners.
It pledged to allocate more funds in its 2021 capital budget to such wealth creation efforts.
Ald. Sheri Carter, the first African American woman to be elected city councilor, said the home ownership program was badly needed in light of the challenges people of color face when buying homes.
She said that when her family moved to Madison to look for a house in the early 1950s, she remembered her mother telling her, "We can't do that," when she pondered whether to buy certain houses.
"Through the Urban League and its team, WHEDA, the finance teams, the city, we have and will be increasing home ownership among black Madisonians," Carter said. "We have leveled the playing field. We will never hear" Can't do that. ""