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Milwaukee approves home repair fund

By: Beth Kevit//February 11, 2014//

Milwaukee approves home repair fund

By: Beth Kevit//February 11, 2014//

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A contentious Milwaukee home repair loan program won Common Council approval Tuesday after last-minute alterations.

The Common Council added the possibility of a waiver for the program’s income cap and the requirement that any payments be used to create a revolving loan fund.

The program, proposed as part of Mayor Tom Barrett’s Strong Neighborhood Investment Plan, will provide no-interest loans to homeowners for repairs that would resolve code-compliance problems that otherwise could lead to foreclosure.

The Department of Neighborhood Services will run the program and internally select which homeowners will be offered loans. Individual loans will be capped at $15,000 and will come due if a homeowner sells his or her property.

The DNS proposed the program to the council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee in December, but the committee’s reservations about eligibility and repayment put the project on hold.

On Feb. 4, the zoning committee approved a revised DNS proposal, which included more details about eligibility criteria, with the stipulation that the full Common Council would vote on an amendment to create the possibility of a waiver for the income requirement.

The DNS has contended eligible homeowners’ incomes should be at or below 50 percent of the Milwaukee County median income, which is $24,600 for a single person and $46,350 for an eight-person family.

Alderman Robert Bauman, a member of the zoning committee, has argued for greater flexibility in granting loans and claimed an income cap of 120 percent of the median income, $59,040 for a single person and $111,240 for an eight-person family, would be more appropriate. The higher cap, he has said, would allow the DNS to consider a family with a higher income that might have mitigating circumstances that prevent them from paying for the home repairs that would bring them into compliance with the city’s building code.

The resolution to create the loan program presented to the Common Council on Tuesday set the income cap at 50 percent. However, an amendment approved Tuesday creates the possibility of an income waiver if, for example, a family earns more than 50 percent of the median income but has high medical bills. Either the DNS commissioner or an alderman could propose a family be granted the income waiver.


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