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Milwaukee Public-Philanthropic Housing Partnership Recognized Nationally

June 16, 2023
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Milwaukee, Wis. – As the innovative work of community partners to provide a quality, affordable home for every Milwaukeean gains momentum in the city, it is also gaining attention nationally for its early results, cross-sector collaboration and strategic focus on racial equity.

For more than a decade, an affiliation of organizations known as the Community Development Alliance has jointly supported neighborhood-based housing solutions and, since 2020, has led Milwaukee’s first collective affordable housing plan. Adopted in partnership with the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and a host of funders, practitioners and advocates, the plan advances racial equity through systems change, including creating opportunities for 32,000 more Black and Latino residents to become homeowners.

This month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Council on Foundations awarded the Greater Milwaukee Foundation – a founding partner and a principal funder of the CDA – the 2023 HUD Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships. In its role, the Foundation helps develop strategy and align resources with partners in government and the nonprofit sector to advance shared goals, together with the other members of the CDA Funders Council – Bader Philanthropies, the Department of City Development, Northwestern Mutual Foundation and Zilber Family Foundation.

“The collective affordable housing plan for Milwaukee’s aim is to advance racial equity by providing a quality, affordable home for every Milwaukeean, prioritizing Black and Latino homeownership.” said Janel Hines, vice president of community impact for the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. “Affordable housing is one of the Foundation’s priorities in our efforts to create a Milwaukee for all. Housing is typically the largest expenditure for any family, specifically for working families. Access to safe, affordable, dignified housing contributes to the health and well-being of families and communities.”

In a few short years, the collective affordable housing plan already is generating strong support and demonstrating progress in priority areas. To date, CDA partners have leveraged over $24 million to advance three key goals: investing in the construction of 150 new homes, acquiring 100 homes per year for homeownership and supporting hundreds of families with down payment assistance.

Re-imagining how to increase access to housing supply and resources is critical, given the current landscape. There are over 17,000 Black & Latino families in Milwaukee aspiring to buy a home $125,000 or less, but only about 1,500 are available each year, and over 40 percent are purchased by investors.


New construction of first-generation homes

The CDA, LISC, Milwaukee County and City of Milwaukee are working together to develop 120 vacant lots into new construction single-family and duplex homes. A request for proposal has been awarded for the development known as King Park, and emerging developers are being identified.

Disrupting predatory acquisition

An acquisition fund was established at the Foundation with CDA support to purchase up to 100 properties per year that would otherwise be bought by investors, preserving them for homeowners. Foundation grantee and alliance member Acts Housing is a lead implementation partner and has already completed acquisition of five single-family homes.

Expanding homeownership
Philanthropic partners are working to mobilize $3 million for Acts Housing, Housing Resources Inc., United Community Center and Social Development Corporation to scale up their programs in down payment assistance and home buyer counseling. The citywide goal is to increase those resources by 10 percent each year for five years.

“The CDA believes that homeownership is a catalyst for dismantling systemic racism and building strong communities, and we can’t do our work as accomplices without strong partnerships like the one we have with the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and all our alliance members,” said Teig Whaley-Smith, CDA chief alliance executive. “By working collaboratively, we are investing in neighborhoods, which nurtures capacity for Black and Latino families to build intergenerational wealth.”


Close collaboration within the CDA has enabled partners to coordinate joint applications to bring external funding to the community. Recent commitments made or attracted in the last two years include:

•$7.5 million grant through the Wells Fargo Foundation’s Wealth Opportunity Restored Through Homeownership (WORTH) initiative, a $60 million national effort to address systemic barriers to homeownership for people of color
•$5.75 million for the acquisition fund from Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Zilber Family Foundation,Northwestern Mutual Foundation, City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.
•$11 million to convert vacant lots to entry-level homes through a Neighborhood Improvement Fund grant from state Department of Administration ($6million) and the Department of Workforce Development ($5 million)
• $1 million Equitable Recovery grant for down payment assistance
• $200K from Freddie Mac for advancing shared equity efforts to increase affordable housing


Continued foundation, corporate and individual philanthropy are critical to sustaining the level of impact achieved so far and reaching the housing plan’s communitywide goals to preserve and grow homeownership and all forms of quality, affordable housing.

Gifts to the Housing Fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation can support these shared strategies to increase availability and affordability of housing options, prevent displacement and eviction, and increase homeownership and home improvement opportunities for families across Milwaukee. Generous donors have already contributed over $1 million to the fund so far.

The HUD Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships, now in its 11th year, calls attention to philanthropy’s work with government partners. This year’s award was officially presented to the Foundation in Denver, Colo., on June 14 at Leading Locally 2023, The Power of Place-Based and Community Philanthropy, the Council on Foundations’ community philanthropy conference.

About the Greater Milwaukee Foundation
The Greater Milwaukee Foundation is Wisconsin’s largest community foundation and was among the first established in the world. For more than a century, the Foundation has been at the heart of the civic community, helping donors achieve the greatest philanthropic impact, elevating the work of changemakers across neighborhoods, and bringing people and organizations together to help our region thrive. Racial equity is the Foundation’s North Star, guiding its investments and strategies for social and economic change. Leveraging generations of community knowledge, cross-sector partnerships and more than $1 billion in financial assets, the Foundation is committed to reimagining philanthropy, catalyzing systems change, convening and following community voice, and building inclusive culture to transform our region into a Milwaukee for all.

About the Community Development Alliance

The CDA is a collaboration of housing funders, practitioners and allies that has been collaborating for more than a decade on neighborhood improvement efforts in Milwaukee. Recognizing that housing inequities are deep and broad, and prohibit families from building intergenerational wealth, the CDA narrowed its focus in 2020 to advancing racial equity by providing a quality, affordable home for every Milwaukeean. This work resulted in Milwaukee’s Collective Affordable Housing Strategic Plan, the first of its kind. Read more about the CDA at