By Bill Clements
Special to The Daily Reporter
Milwaukee could lose to demolition hundreds of houses if damaging mold infects them as a result of flooding from the recent heavy rains.
Vacant houses, of which Milwaukee has between 5,000 and 6,000, are most likely to fall victim to mold infiltration; the majority of those structures are vacant because of foreclosure.
If that worst-case demolition scenario happens, the city would lose millions of dollars from it tax levy rolls, said Ald. Michael Murphy.
That’s why the Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday approved the use of $100,000 in Community Development Block Grant money for the city to help pay for inspections and maintenance at these properties. (That comes after the council on July 7 approved $200,000 in CDBG money to pay the Milwaukee Police Department for police services rendered at these vacant properties that can become troublesome).
Of course, Murphy said, the banks that own these properties should be doing the inspections and maintenance.
Murphy said he met on Friday with representatives from the three financial institutions that own the most foreclosed properties in Milwaukee.
“If you are a bank, you have the responsibility to get in and inspect these basements,” Murphy said. Up until now, he added, “the banks have been doing the bare minimum.”
Murphy said he has asked Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works to send letters to the three institutions involved — Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and Deutsche Bank — asking them to get workers into these homes to inspect them for mold and take corrective action if necessary.
“The banks can’t be continually saying, ‘Hey, we’re just the trustees — we can’t do anything,’” Murphy said during Tuesday morning’s Common Council meeting.
“That’s just not acceptable. And we can’t wait any longer: If we wait until next week, it’ll be too long.”
Ald. Joe Davis Sr. said it’s not just the vacant places that need to be inspected for mold — many residents in his Second Ward are having problems with mold in their houses, too.
And they need help in the form of some sort of inspection program, especially seniors on fixed incomes.
“They are devastated and don’t know what to do,” Davis said.