Shakespeare Blog: View from the Lake

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Milwaukee Housing: Habitat for Humanity

Written By: Andy Heuer, Development Director – Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity

Milwaukee Habitat is addressing one of the most pressing issues in our community – access to safe, affordable housing. For many of us who are homeowners, we’ve watched as our property values have soared in recent years. We have watched as the asset we invested in appreciates in value, while our mortgage payments remain the same. We have built equity in one of the key drivers for generational wealth creation in this country.

In fact, did you know that U.S. homeowners have an average net worth that is 400% higher than that of renters with similar demographics and earnings?

Yet, for so many in our community, the dream of investing in that kind of opportunity feels woefully out of reach. As housing prices have gone up, so has the rent. Right now, 1 in 3 Milwaukee renters are spending half or more of their income on housing.

Imagine being a single parent, earning $30,000 a year and half of that going right out the door. With what’s left over to cover food, health care and the rest of the bills, too often families are stuck living paycheck to paycheck.

Because of this, it’s no wonder the most common barriers to homeownership are large down payments, the denial of affordable loans and simply being priced out of the market.

According to Harvard University’s 2022 “State of the Nation’s Housing” report: At today’s prices, the down payment that a first-time buyer would have to make on a median-priced home—typically 7% of the sales price—amounted to $27,400 in April 2022. Without help from family or other sources, this requirement alone would rule out 92% of renters, whose median savings are just $1,500.

Milwaukee Habitat is breaking down the barriers to homeownership for local families in need. The typical mortgage payment for a brand new Milwaukee Habitat home is $600-$900 per month and no down payment is required.

By eliminating these barriers to homeownership, we help local families break the cycle of substandard and unaffordable housing. These homes will bring immediate relief for families struggling with housing-related issues. But the lifespan of that impact extends well beyond move-in day.

A Success Story

Sixteen years ago, Allison built a brand new Habitat home in Milwaukee’s Midtown neighborhood. Becoming a first time homebuyer is a significant milestone in anyone’s life. In Allison’s, it was the foundation to achieve her personal and professional dreams.

Allison on Habitat House Porch

Allison has raised two children in that house. She is a Milwaukee Public School district employee and for the last several years has been working hard to establish a business with her partner, Kevin.

“[Habitat] gives you the tools so you can help yourself,” Allison said. “Then you’re able to do the other things you dreamed to do.”

Through Habitat’s financial education courses, Allison learned how to be mindful of credit and saving money. The financial knowledge gained from our program and our affordable mortgage payments have helped Allison pursue the dream of owning a business with Kevin.

Their love for barbeque eventually evolved into “Junior’s Smoked BBQ.” In the early days, they spent years bringing Junior’s Smoked BBQ to local farmers markets. As their following grew, the two had their sights set on opening a brick and mortar location. Late last year, that dream came true.

On December 23, 2021, Allison and Kevin opened Junior’s Smoked BBQ in Sherman Phoenix – a popular new entrepreneurial hub and marketplace in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood. Now, Junior’s Smoked BBQ has a storefront, travels to farmers markets around the Milwaukee area, caters events and has grown to a popular barbeque destination in the city.

Not only did Habitat homeownership open up opportunities for Allison to pursue her goals, it also influenced her children’s lives. Her sons have grown up with the stability and safety that comes with affordable homeownership.

“Habitat does change lives,” Allison said. “And it doesn’t just change the life of the homeowner; it changes the lives of the kids.”

Milwaukee Habitat provided the tools Allison needed to change her life and the lives of her children. “One thing I can say about Habitat is you’re helping people to help themselves,” Allison said. “Which is

bigger than anything they could ever do.”

Allison with Restaurant in Sherman Phoenix

Submitted by: Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. Visit to learn more and get involved.