Alliance of Milwaukee Organizations Announces $7.5 Million Grant From Wells Fargo Foundation to Boost Homeownership for Families of Color

New initiative to create 5,000 homeowners of color by 2025
Sep 20, 2022 9:05 AM ET
Press Release

MILWAUKEE, September 20, 2022 /3BL Media/ - Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and County Executive David Crowley joined 19 public, nonprofit and civic organizations, led by the Community Development Alliance (CDA), to announce the launch of a new initiative to help advance racial equity by funding quality, affordable homes for Milwaukee families. Funded with a $7.5 million grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation, the alliance of organizations addressed how the new effort will seek to dismantle systemic barriers to homeownership for people of color in Milwaukee.

The donation comes from the Wells Fargo Wealth Opportunity Restored Through Homeownership (WORTH) initiative, a $60 million national effort to address systemic barriers to homeownership for people of color. Milwaukee is one of eight markets across the U.S. to receive a WORTH grant. Teig Whaley‑Smith of the CDA and Michael Gosman of Acts Housing will lead the effort, which aims to create 5,000 new homeowners of color in the city by the end of 2025.

“Quality, affordable housing plays an essential role in the health of a city. Milwaukee must move forward with equitable efforts to increase homeownership. That will improve safety, build wealth, add stability for families, and strengthen neighborhoods all across Milwaukee,” Mayor Cavalier Johnson said. “I acknowledge the importance of the Wells Fargo WORTH planning grant in advancing the work.”

“Today represents an unprecedented step toward achieving our vision of a better Milwaukee for all our neighbors,” said Whaley‑Smith of CDA. “Housing — a home — is more than a physical space. It is foundational to human dignity. We are incredibly grateful for the commitment of Wells Fargo and, together with our community partners, we are working to dismantle systemic racism and build strong communities.”

“Helping more people have an equitable pathway to homeownership is a priority for Wells Fargo,” said Otis Rolley, head of Social Impact for Wells Fargo and president of the Wells Fargo Foundation. “Deliberate action and attention are needed to improve homeownership opportunities for people of color, and our grant is intended to mobilize collaboration across the city. The Milwaukee organizations funded by this grant have deep expertise that will benefit thousands of families.”

According to U.S. Census data, Milwaukee has the second‑lowest homeownership rate of major cities in the United States. White homeownership is at about 56%, Latino homeownership is at 38% and Black homeownership is at 27%.

Whaley‑Smith said the first $2 million of the WORTH grant will be used to leverage a total of $11 million to acquire 100 homes per year.

Future strategies will focus on reducing Milwaukee’s homeownership gap through down payment assistance and converting vacant lots into entry‑level homes.

Path to Implementation

As part of the WORTH initiative, the CDA has outlined the following strategies:

  • Acquire and rehab roughly 100 properties that would otherwise likely be owned by investors.
  • Scale homebuyer counseling and down payment systems to support 1,000 families of color per year by growing these systems 10% per year.
  • Maximize existing inventory systems by producing 75 starter homes available each year for families of color.
  • Advance other supportive systems that help increase homebuyer success rates.

Additional organizations involved in the effort are: Bader Philanthropies, the City of Milwaukee, the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, Housing Resources, Inc., LISC Milwaukee, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, Milwaukee County, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity, the Milwaukee Healthcare Partnership, Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation, the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, the Social Development Commission, Take Root Milwaukee, the United Community Center, the Wisconsin Housing and Development Authority, Wisconsin Voices, and the Zilber Family Foundation.

The CDA is an affiliation of stakeholders that has collaborated for more than a decade on neighborhood improvement efforts in Milwaukee. Recognizing that housing inequities are deep and broad, and prohibit families from building generational wealth, the CDA narrowed its focus in 2020 to providing a quality, affordable home for every Milwaukeean. This work resulted in Milwaukee’s Collective Affordable Housing Strategic Plan, the first of its kind.

Acts Housing is a leading provider of homebuyer and financial counseling, lending and real estate services, and housing rehab coaching. Acts Housing has helped more than 3,000 families become homeowners with a total investment of more than $235 million in Milwaukee.

Wells Fargo is working to increase racial equity in homeownership. Nationally, WORTH aims to help create 40,000 new homeowners of color by the end of 2025. Wells Fargo’s $40 million Growing Diverse Housing Developers program is also working to expand housing inventory in communities of color, among other initiatives. The company also recently launched a Special Purpose Credit Program to help eligible homeowners of color whose mortgages are serviced by Wells Fargo lower their interest rates and reduce their monthly mortgage payments.

About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a leading financial services company that has approximately $1.9 trillion in assets, proudly serves one in three U.S. households and more than 10% of small businesses in the U.S., and is a leading middle market banking provider in the U.S. We provide a diversified set of banking, investment, and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through our four reportable operating segments: Consumer Banking and Lending, Commercial Banking, Corporate and Investment Banking, and Wealth & Investment Management. Wells Fargo ranked No. 41 on Fortune’s 2022 rankings of America’s largest corporations. In the communities we serve, the company focuses its social impact on building a sustainable, inclusive future for all by supporting housing affordability, small business growth, financial health, and a low‑carbon economy.

News, insights, and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories.

Additional information may be found at | Twitter: @WellsFargo

About the Community Development Alliance

At the Community Development Alliance, we believe that homeownership is a catalyst for dismantling systemic racism and building strong communities. That’s why our work as accomplices with community is centered on change for and with people and policy. By working collaboratively, we invest in neighborhoods, providing access to quality homes for Milwaukee families and nurturing capacity for Black and brown families to build generational wealth.

About Acts Housing

Acts Housing provides one‑on‑one and online, HUD‑approved homebuyer and financial counseling for individuals and families to help them become ready to buy. As a real estate brokerage, Acts represents families in the purchase of homes for owner occupancy, in Milwaukee and Beloit, Wisconsin. Acts then helps families plan and execute home rehabilitation, with a focus on reclaiming vacant foreclosures. Our affiliated nonprofit partner, Acts Lending, Inc., provides mortgage loans for rehabilitation projects.