Over the past several years, the Wisconsin Policy Forum has devoted considerable research attention to affordable housing issues in Milwaukee. In 2018, we analyzed the affordability and availability of rental housing in the city and facilitated a group of local stakeholders working to reduce evictions. We then conducted separate examinations of Milwaukee city government’s housing programs and affordable housing efforts pursued by nonprofit, philanthropic, and private sector organizations. This research was designed to identify opportunities to strengthen coordination of public and private sector affordable housing initiatives and boost their collective impact.
After analyzing the city’s affordable housing efforts and challenges through a systemic and citywide lens, in this report we turn to a neighborhood-based initiative to improve housing conditions in Milwaukee. That project is the Amani Housing Pilot, which was launched in 2019 and aims to take a comprehensive and community-engaged approach to improve housing on one block in Milwaukee’s Amani neighborhood. The pilot involves partnerships between neighborhood residents, several community organizations, and the Northwestern Mutual Foundation and was created with the intention of helping to guide future housing efforts in Amani, other Milwaukee neighborhoods, and potentially other cities.
Our analysis of the Amani Housing Pilot is guided by the following key research questions:
- What are the pilot’s precise objectives, how are its partnerships structured, and how is the work being financed?
- To what extent has the pilot met its objectives to date, where has it fallen short, and what specific challenges have arisen?
- What are the lessons learned so far and how might they impact the scalability of this approach or other similar efforts?
To answer these questions, we collected, analyzed, and synthesized documents and data about the pilot and conducted a series of interviews with 15 stakeholders. The interviews, in particular, shed light on the pilot’s strengths, weaknesses, and potential for replication. We do not attempt to evaluate the success of the pilot, which is still in progress. Our primary objective, rather, is to present a case study that can help to inform and strengthen similar projects in the future.
Recent policy developments – including the creation of a Rental Housing Resource Center, completion of a public-private Collective Affordable Housing Plan, and prioritization of affordable housing in deliberations over use of federal relief dollars – demonstrate that this issue is increasingly viewed as one of Milwaukee’s most pressing. We hope our analysis of the Amani Housing Pilot assists local leaders as they consider strategies for preserving and expanding the supply of affordable housing and strengthening city neighborhoods.