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Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity kicks off building project for nine homes in Harambee

By: Ethan Duran//May 22, 2023//

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity kicks off building project for nine homes in Harambee

By: Ethan Duran//May 22, 2023//

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Houses are under construction in Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood. Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity has a goal to build 80 houses in the neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity)

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity will build nine houses on the same block in Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood. The Brewers Community Foundation (BCF) and Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation sponsored one home for local mother Hsa Yu.

The volunteer organization wants to build 80 affordable houses in Harambee, part of an initiative Milwaukee Habitat announced in 2020, Milwaukee Habitat spokesperson Jake Brandt told The Daily Reporter. The houses are typically two-story, two- and three-bedroom homes with floor plans ranging from 1,200 to 1,400 square feet.

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff, the Racing Sausages and volunteers helped build Yu’s future home, Milwaukee Habitat officials said. The nine houses will go up near North 6th Street and West Burleigh Avenue, Brandt added.

“As a parent, I appreciate how important it is to have a stable place to call home. The work that Habitat is doing to help moms like Has Yu become a homeowner is vital, and I’m grateful to be a part of it,” Woodruff said in a statement.

First-time homebuyers help build their own homes and pay a mortgage that averages $600-$900 per month, Milwaukee Habitat officials added. It usually takes between one to two years to complete a single house, Brandt noted.

The new houses are built over empty lots and future homebuyers have to invest between 200-300 hours of “sweat equity,” meaning they get involved with construction of their home and homes of their neighbors, Brandt said.

“We expanded our construction efforts in 2021 in the Harambee neighborhood. For the past three years we’ve been building a majority of our new construction homes in the Harambee neighborhood. We had previously built in the Midtown neighborhood. We tried to focus our efforts on neighborhoods, where in this block we’re able to cluster new construction homes. This block just a year ago was dotted with all these empty lots, now there’s going to be nine brand-new owner-occupied homes located there,” he added.

The volunteer organization in 2020 announced plans to build 80 affordable houses in the Harambee neighborhood, but construction was delayed because of the pandemic, Brandt said.

“We stopped production of all homes at the beginning of the pandemic, then slowly throughout 2020 began bringing back staff, then later volunteers. We had existing commitments in the Midtown neighborhood that we had planned to finish in 2020. However, because we had to then resume production in Midtown, it pushed 2021 and beyond goals out further. So, it was essentially a mix of halting production due to the pandemic, then catching up on a backlog of projects as we incrementally scaled labor back up to pre-pandemic levels,” Brandt said.

The initiative goes back to Habitat’s Cost of Home campaign in 2016, which aims to serve 250 families in the city’s northwest side through affordable homeownership and critical home repair, officials said.

Milwaukee Habitat prepares homebuyers to be successful with their first homes and teaches them how to finance and maintain their home, Brandt said.

Former Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Bader Philanthropies CEO Dan Bader, City Development Commissioner Lafayette Crump and Milwaukee Habitat Executive Director Brian Sonderman helped raise the walls of one of the first habitat homes on the 3400 block of North 3rd Street, Milwaukee Habitat officials added.

Creating affordable home ownership is important because of the intergenerational wealth it creates, but in 2021 only 22% of residents in Harambee owned the homes they live in, officials said. In Whitefish Bay, only 4 miles away, homeownership rates were nearly 82% that year, officials added.

Milwaukee Habitat works with between 2,000 and 3,000 volunteers who help on build sites, stores and committees each year, Brandt said.


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