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Milwaukee's homeownership inequities and how we compare to peer cities

July 2022


Low and declining Black and Hispanic homeownership rates in Milwaukee are indicators of the city’s acute racial equity challenges. Our 2020 Laying the Foundation and 2021 Expanding the Blueprint reports on the city’s affordable housing landscape highlighted how the owner-occupancy rates of Black and Hispanic households in Milwaukee lag far behind the rate for white households. Our March 2022 research brief showed that the city’s large racial disparities in homeownership widened over the last decade.

These dynamics are concerning because homeownership is an important means through which households can build wealth and, therefore, a key way for Milwaukee to become more equitable and prosperous. Advancing racial equity in homeownership is especially important given that Black and Hispanic residents comprise more than half of the city’s total population. Doing so now may be particularly urgent and challenging given rising home prices and mortgage rates are reducing housing affordability in Wisconsin and nationally.

This report builds on our previous research by comparing Milwaukee with 10 demographically and economically similar peer cities throughout the U.S. with respect to owner-occupancy rates, usage of federal resources to promote homeownership, and strategies to advance racial equity in homeownership. We seek to answer three main research questions:

  • How does Milwaukee compare with peer cities nationally when it comes to homeownership rates by race/ethnicity, racial disparities in homeownership rates, and recent changes in these rates and disparities?
  • How has Milwaukee compared with peer cities in recent years in its use of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds to support homeownership services?
  • How does Milwaukee compare with peer cities in its current approaches to advancing racial equity in homeownership?

We attempt to answer these questions by analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and Decennial Census, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnerships programs, and city government websites. While zoning and other land use policies also influence housing markets and homeownership rates, they are beyond the scope of this study.

Although the data included in our analysis does not allow us to make causal explanations of similarities and differences between cities, it offers valuable perspective on where Milwaukee stands relative to a set of peers and how Milwaukee’s approaches to supporting homeownership and to advancing racial equity in homeownership compare to those cities. We hope this analysis provides useful information to local housing stakeholders working to advance racial equity in Milwaukee. Continue reading…

Media Coverage

"Disparities in Milwaukee’s homeownership haven’t improved since the Great Recession" [1]Spectrum News 1
"Despite $37M spent on homeownership programs, Black and Hispanic homeowner rates remain low, report says" [2]Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Milwaukee’s Racial Disparity in Homeownership Growing" [3]Urban Milwaukee
"Racial disparities in homeownership worse in Milwaukee compared with 10 other cities" [4]Wisconsin Examiner
"Milwaukee’s homeownership inequities and how it compares to peer cities" [6]Milwaukee Community Journal
"On racial equity in homeownership, Milwaukee ranks last among peers" [7]Milton Courier
"Milwaukee Racial Homeownership Gap Increasing" [8]Planetizen
"Wisconsin Policy Forum report finds severe racial inequities in Milwaukee homeownership" [9]WUWM - Milwaukee's NPR
"The Wisconsin Policy Forum report found serious racial disparities among Milwaukee homeowners." [10]Darik News
"Wisconsin Policy Forum report finds severe racial inequities in Milwaukee homeownership" [11]NewsBreak
"ACTS Housing is launching an acquisition fund to combat investor landlord purchases in Milwaukee" [12]Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Here’s why Milwaukee’s Black homeownership rates are low (plus resources you can use)" [13]Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
"Why Black Homeownership Rate Is Low" [14]Urban Milwaukee
"S K Y L I N E | Closure" [15]New York Review of Architecture
"King Park Housing Project Loses Out On Affordable Tax Credits" [16]Urban Milwaukee
"Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity announces plan to double housing construction by 2028" [17]Milwaukee Journal Sentinel