The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

CDA links stable housing to enrollment

On March 14, Executive Director of Milwaukee Community Development Alliance (CDA), Teig Whaley-Smith, presented his research on affordable housing as a predictor of school enrollment to members of the Village and school boards. The CDA has worked with Shorewood over the past three years, discussing potential solutions to make housing more affordable and diverse.

“What really drives me is I want to make Milwaukee the best place on planet Earth, particularly for the families that have been left out of the larger political, social and economic systems,” Whaley-Smith said. “[The CDA] is focused on implementing four strategies…increasing down payment assistance in homebuyer counseling, converting big lots into entry-level homes, alternative lending…and acquisition funds that buy properties away from landlords and getting them back in the hands of homeowners.”

Passed by the City Council of Milwaukee County in 2021, the CDA sponsored the Milwaukee Collective Affordable Housing Strategic Plan, which helped to4 increase homeownership for people of color, as well as increasing and preserving housing affordability for families that make between $7.2515 per hour. 

Additionally, Whaley-Smith and the CDA believe that stable, affordable housing has a direct correlation with school enrollment. 

“You have communities like Oak Creek and Franklin that have built [additional] housing units and their school systems have been able to maintain enrollment,” Whaley-Smith said. “But [what you see in] communities like Shorewood that haven’t built housing is that younger families can’t find any available inventory, and so they end up moving to other school districts that have more available housing, and [that’s when] you start to see district enrollment decline.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Shorewood and Whitefish Bay school systems have experienced significant drops in enrollment since 2016, while the Oak Creek and Franklin school districts have seen a stable increase since 20122013. 

Whaley-Smith believes that “displacement risk” is the most prominent issue facing Shorewood and that it is a situation unique to the village compared to its North Shore neighbors. According to the data gathered by the Milwaukee County Housing Dashboard (MCHD) from 2022 census data, the median value of a Shorewood home stands at $391,000, while the median income remains stagnant at $87,000. 

“[Shorewood] essentially doesn’t have any inventory for families that can afford a home less than $200,000,” Whaley-Smith said. “You may have had somebody move into Shorewood 10 years ago and buy a home for $150,000, and that home is now worth $300,000, and they are not going to be able to afford to stay in that home [because of property taxes]. We call that displacement risk.”

Shorewood Village President Ann McKaig believes that there are ways to combat displacement risk that protect both homeownership and multi-generational housing. One solution was putting land in a land trust, which would allow trustees of the village to manage property instead of a private owner.

“[Properties] in a [land trust] are not subject to the market, so if housing prices drive up all across Shorewood, properties in a land trust would be controlled,” McKaig said. “Then you can [fit in] other criteria for buyers that really make sure that those homes go to people that need them.”

According to census data from the MCHD of Wisconsin’s North Shore, Shorewood has the lowest percentage of families of color that are homeowners, with a total of 4%. Whaley-Smith suggests that in order to salvage this low percentage, complex decisions must be made. 

“Our data shows that you can build 2,000 additional units for high income people to fill those [units] without intervention,” Whaley-Smith said. “If you do decide to build new units, [you have to decide] if you want to have all higher income people moving in or if you want to have space for working [class] people. That…is not just a decision on income, but about racial diversity [and equity]…unfortunately, in our country, the vast majority of people of color have lower incomes, so if you have policies to exclude low income families, it’s, de facto, a decision of excluding people of color.”

Blanche Kushner, Shorewood resident since 2001 and retired lawyer, has attended all Community Development Authority’s “Spotlight on Housing” presentations, and believes that Shorewood must take action to support residents of color.

“Shorewood’s lack of racial diversity, in particular its disproportionately low number of Black residents compared to the wider Milwaukee community, is in part a result of restrictive covenants that historically existed in some of  Shorewood’s residential developments,” Kushner said. “This history creates a special obligation to take corrective action. Because of past housing discrimination and systemic discrimination in education and employment, people of color are disproportionately represented amongst individuals who would benefit from affordable housing.”

In his presentation, Whaley-Smith discussed several solutions to Shorewood’s displacement risk, such as building vertically and implementing neighborhood or community level integration. Currently, Shorewood has mandated expense requirements in place that restrict some of these solutions. For example, Mandated Cost Expense 22512 requires “high quality design & Construction and a diversity of architectural styles, which are, at the same time, compatible with their surroundings,” Mandated Car Storages Expenses: 535-47 “requires one parking space per dwelling unit,” and Mandated Land Expenses: 535-25 “requires 90% of village can only build two or less homes, other 10% has height limitation.” Lastly, Mandated Process Expenses: 225-12 “requires Design Board Review of every development.” 

“Where some [places] limit new construction review to certain parts of the city, Shorewood has a rule where every new construction project has to go through that review, which is a real barrier for people investing in housing,” Whaley-Smith said. “Our role is to point out intentional policy decisions and ways to change that decision if you want kids and grandkids [to stay], or if you want a more diverse community.”

To circumvent the steep cost of building housing, many developers have turned to Tax Incremental Financing (TIF), a mechanism that funds development and redevelopment plans for municipalities and provides financial assistance to developers in the early stages of projects that are repaid in property tax revenue years later.  

“Because we have height restrictions from our zoning code, it makes it really hard to do affordable housing projects without TIF and that are completely affordable because of land costs in Shorewood being so high,” McKaig said.

McKaig agrees that the current regulations serve as barriers to potential improvements, but believes that TIF and land trusts are viable solutions. 

“In terms of increasing the number of affordable rental units, our best strategy that is available is to use TIF to work with developers to set aside a portion of units that would meet the definition of affordable housing: 30% of someone’s income,” McKaig said. “In terms of homeownership, the only option we have at this point is to try and [create] a land trust with the public works site if we were to relocate the facility. So obviously there are a lot of pieces that would need to fit together there and there are lots of decision points to make that an opportunity.” 

Kushner is optimistic that Shorewood has the power to take corrective action. 

“While the federal government is no longer subsidizing housing like it did in the past, local governments and community organizations can. Teig Whaley-Smith and the CDA promote land trusts as one way to achieve affordable home ownership,” Kushner said. “Shorewood can support this model with land it owns [like the current Department of Public Works building] and with Tax Incremental District funding. There are many options and models for affordable housing, but I believe subsidized home ownership may be the best path to a stable and more equitable community.”

Shorewood’s work with the Milwaukee Community Development Alliance is, at the moment, for educational purposes. Serious talks of implementation will come over the next few years, and all development will be public. 

“That’s why we have started this process a few years early — I want to educate our community, boards and commissions about [affordable housing], because sometimes if you say affordable housing and ask people what that means, they may come up with a variety of definitions and examples, some of which may be accurate [and] some that may not be accurate,” McKaig said. “I [think] that it was really important to start from a very foundational level with terms and definitions and things like that.” 


All webinars, articles, meetings, etc. regarding affordable housing are available on the Shorewood Village Website