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Milwaukee Ranks 3rd Worst In US For Black Home Ownership

Memphis, New Orleans Were Only Other Cities With Lower Percentages

City of Milwaukee skyline
Jim Bauer (CC BY-ND)

The Milwaukee metro area ranks third in the United States among cities with the lowest percentage of households where the primary owner is black, according U.S. Census Bureau data.

Just over 7 percent of the Milwaukee area’s African American population owned a home in 2017, according to the latest data available. The median household income among African Americans in Milwaukee is $28,928.

The city’s metro area includes Waukesha and West Allis.

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LendingTree, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based mortgage website, recently ranked the 50 largest metro areas in the country by the percentage of the black population that owns a home.

Memphis and New Orleans ranked first and second for the lowest percentage of black homeowners.

Milwaukee is a common example of a manufacturing town that attracted African Americans in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, said Jacob Channel, a research analyst who worked on the study.

“When World War I and World War II ended, and white people came back, they were forced out of jobs and never had an opportunity to establish the strong economic foothold like white Americans have had,” Channel said.

Racially-segregated cities also have historically had more disadvantages for minority groups, specifically African Americans, Channel said.

In January, the Brookings Institution found Milwaukee was the most racially segregated metro area in the U.S.

Milwaukee County has more than 240,000 African Americans, which is about 70 percent of the state’s total African American population, according to the 2010 census. About 40 percent of the city of Milwaukee’s residents are black. In the metro area, about 17 percent of residents are black.

Alderman Khalif Rainey’s district includes Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood. In 2016, he created the city’s Office of African American Affairs to improve the quality of life for black people living in Milwaukee.

“Seems like every day there is another new statistic about the lack of quality of life for African Americans in Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin,” Rainey said Thursday.

When Rainey first heard Milwaukee ranked third in the nation for lowest homeownership by African Americans he said he was surprised. But after taking a few minutes to digest it, he said it made sense.

“When you think about the economic hardships and lack of family-supporting jobs for African Americans, I can see how we’re falling behind in homeownership,” Rainey said. “When you think about home ownership, it’s also a cornerstone of building wealth and how it impacts the economics of the black community as well.”

Channel agreed. He said despite how bad things appear, there are many programs available to everyone looking for a home, including loans through the Federal Housing Administration.

Take Root Milwaukee is also available — it’s a consortium of more than 40 community organizations, neighborhoods groups and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-certified housing counseling agencies the help people achieve home ownership.

“What we have to do, as a society, government, whatever, is realize we have a problem, and then look at solutions to make it easier for disadvantaged people to build wealth,” Channel said.