Affordable housing shortage reaches 'crisis level,' state housing authority says

Posted at 10:02 AM, Jun 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-13 11:02:04-04

MILWAUKEE — There's a dire need for affordable housing across the state. Some agencies are even calling it a "crisis situation." The I-Team looked at the number of units needed and how people across the Badger State are working to fix the problem.

In November 2021, after the Taliban took control in Afghanistan, Mohammad Arif Faizi and his family were forced to relocate to Milwaukee. A city within a state that already has an extremely low housing supply.

"It's difficult to find wheelchair-accessible housing, and it's very expensive," Faizi said.

Faizi was placed in a tax-credit affordable housing unit near Walker's Point.

"We're very happy. We feel very fortunate," Faizi added.

Tax credit affordable housing, for many, is considered a luxury.

"Affordable housing is more than an issue. We believe we're at a crisis level," Elmer Moore said.

Moore is the director of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. He said, state-wide, we need about 150,000 affordable housing units. In Milwaukee County alone, he said it's more than 46,000.

"What any contribution to that need means is the difference between safety and security and not. What it means for a neighborhood is increased amenities, increased foot traffic, it means people spending money in local stores," Moore explained.

Annually, Moore and his team allocate federal housing tax credits for developers to build these units, units that give people with a low-to-medium income the option to live in neighborhoods they've previously been priced out of.

It's a hurdle both WHEDA and local developers said they're trying to work through.

"People are afraid of affordable housing primarily because they're misinformed of what affordable housing does to a community. It doesn't devalue a community, it doesn't bring bad tenants to the community," Michael Emem said.

Emem's the president and CEO of Emem Group, a real estate developer and consultant. Breaking the stereotype of affordable housing is Emem's mission.

Right now, Emem, his team, and his partners are building more than 500 affordable housing, tax credit units across Milwaukee County. He took the I-Team into one of their projects, 1887 on Water.

"Most of the homes or units here will be leased to individuals making below county medium income. This is one of the few affordable housing units downtown and in the lower east side," Emem explained.

Emem hopes this project will bring diversification and opportunity to the neighborhood.

"We have local schools in the lower east side, you know, so how can teachers live in the area where they teach," Emem said.

To learn more about WHEDA's tax credit program, click here.

For more resources on local affordable housing units, click here.