Advocates in Milwaukee, including NLIHC State Coalition Partner IndependenceFirst, are leading efforts to expand several local housing trust funds and establish a regional housing trust fund. The proposed Housing Trust Fund of Southeastern Wisconsin would merge three existing trust funds in the City and County of Milwaukee, with the hope of expanding to up to seven counties throughout the southeastern region of Wisconsin.
The proposal for the Housing Trust Fund of Southeastern Wisconsin (HTF-SW) highlights several benefits of a regional housing trust fund. Advocates note that a regional trust fund would increase the pool of capital to invest in affordable housing initiatives and would provide opportunities to take greater advantage of federal funding initiatives, such as HUD’s Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program. Additionally, a regional trust fund would provide a structure for dialogue among multiple jurisdictions, raising awareness and collaboration between participating counties about the resources and approaches used by various communities, as opposed to a county-by-county approach.
Under the proposal, the Housing Trust Fund of the City of Milwaukee, the Milwaukee County Special Needs Housing Trust Fund, and the Milwaukee County Inclusive Housing Fund would be consolidated into the HTF-SW. The proposal recommends that at least 35% of the Housing Trust Fund of Southeastern Wisconsin be used to fund acquisition, new construction, and rehabilitation for housing affordable within 60% of the county median income, and at least 25% be used for homeownership opportunities. Additionally, the proposal would require at least 25% of funds to be used for housing or services for people who are homeless. At least 2% of available funds annually would be required to fund accessibility improvements or modifications.
The Housing Trust Fund of the City of Milwaukee was established in 2005 as a result of a campaign coordinated by the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee. In 2007, the fund was capitalized with $2.5 million from general tax revenue, and an additional $400,000 in tax revenue over the next three years (see Memo, 10/22/10). This has allowed the Housing Trust Fund of the City of Milwaukee to provide over $3 million in grants and loans, leveraging an additional $62 million and funding 21 affordable housing projects that provide 421 homes.
In 2007, Milwaukee County also established a Special Needs County Housing Trust Fund which provides partial funding for the development of supportive housing. At least 40% of units developed under the Special Needs County Housing Trust Fund must be set aside for use by the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division to meet housing needs of those it serves who fall below 30% of the area median income. The Special Needs County Housing Trust Fund is currently financed through low-interest loans from the State of Wisconsin Trust Funds Loan Program, and has been authorized to borrow up to $3 million since 2007.
Advocates hope to use multiple sources to fund the HTF-SW, to provide greater stability and continuity for the trust fund, and help guarantee that housing developed with funds from the HTF-SW will be evenly distributed throughout the region, rather than concentrated in certain areas.
“While we are looking at different funding sources to capitalize the HTF-SW in the future, the current political climate and Wisconsin’s budgetary battles are causing us to consider our options carefully,” said Brian Peters of IndependenceFirst. “We are excited at the prospect of a regional trust fund. It is a great opportunity to expand funding for affordable housing and, as we’ve proposed it, it would help coordinate public policy efforts around affordable housing throughout the region.”
To learn more, contact Brian Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org.