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RACINE — Gov. Tony Evers returned to the City of Racine for the second time in March, to show his support towards initiatives happening locally, first it was maternal and infant mortality, and now, housing.

Gov. Evers grabs a piece of Kringle to enjoy while in Racine for a tour and round table discussion about housing. – Credit: Emma Widmar

On Thursday, March 30, Gov. Evers toured a single-family home with a single-car garage, on Albert Street, located within the Lincoln King neighborhood.

He also participated in a roundtable discussion with Mayor Cory Mason, community agencies, and clients of housing resources.

“It’s great to be in Racine, once again, to be in the house that is going to be a wonderful place for some folks that do not have housing or are renting,” commented Evers.

Albert Street home to hit the market soon

The home, which is under construction through the city’s Community Development Authority (CDA), is just one home a part of the city’s efforts to increase homeownership access and affordability for city residents.

We see achieving homeownership as an essential part of the American dream. And we’re excited to bring that opportunity to more people here in the city.

Mayor Cory Mason
Evers and Mason admire the single-car garage from inside the house on Albert Street. – Credit: Emma Widmar

The house on Albert Street is being built with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which was allocated to the CDA. The hope is for the home to sell for around $160,000.

Investing in Racine

Investing in neighborhood housing is an effort the city is working towards. The goal is to construct new homes on vacant lots and eventually sell the homes to city residents.

“We have 277 families who’ve become homeowners in the last five years, through the programs that they and the city collaborate on. That’s a lot of families that are getting a safe and healthy place to live and beginning to build wealth and the pride that comes with homeownership,” said Mason.

The home on Albert Street is a two-story home. Gov. Evers and Mayor Cory Mason had the opportunity to tour the home on March 30. – Credit: Emma Widmar

It is projected that there will be four additional homes constructed, totaling five homes that will be made available in the neighborhood.

“This (Lincoln King neighborhood) is a place to do both rehab and good infill and really start to make a difference,” Mason said to Evers during the tour.

Mayor Cory Mason and Gov. Evers discuss how the city aims to use local contractors and tradesman when constructing these homes. – Credit: Emma Widmar

The home is projected to be on the market on April 29.

“We’re trending in the right direction,” said the Mayor.

A community conversation

Gov. Evers listen about various programs taking place in the City of Racine to increase access to housing and affordability. – Credit: Emma Widmar

In addition to a tour, Gov. Evers had a roundtable discussion with the Mayor, employees of the City of Racine, the Financial Empowerment Center (FEC), the Housing Resources Inc. (HRI), and recipients of these programs.

Vicky Selkowe, Manager of Strategic Initiatives & Community Partnerships; Dasheika Kidd, Housing Resources Inc., Racine Program Manager/FEC Manager; Elena Echeverria, HRI, Homeownership Specialist; Kimberly Blake, former HRI client and homeowner; Alyssa Blake, current HRI client; and Bria Gentry, current FEC client were present.

Programs in progress

Housing Resources Inc. (HRI)

HRI is a nonprofit organization that has been active in the community for 20 years, providing counseling for first-time homebuyers.

Their goal is to increase the number of new homeowners within the city.

Participants of explain the importance of educating first-time home buyers during the roundtable discussion. Pictured here (left to right): Vicky Selkowe, Dasheika Kidd and Bria Gentry. – Credit: Emma Widmar

“We’ve already had a footprint in the community and we already are helping people with their homeownership. However, some people can’t see that goal because they have a lot of barriers and a lot of challenges to overcome. And so that’s why it was great for us to partner to launch the Financial Empowerment Center,” said Program Manager Kidd.

Thursday’s discussion looked at the impact beyond the home itself.

“I’m very passionate about homeownership. I’m a third-generation homeowner it is very important to educate families on financial literacy and financial education. We all know that homeownership will flow,
stabilize families, and stabilize communities,” she added.

Gov. Evers touched on the psychological aspect of homeownership as well.

“Homeownership is important not just for the workforce. But it’s a way to self-actualize. It’s important, it makes you feel successful. Because you are,” said the Governor.

Financial Empowerment Center (FEC)

Additionally, the Racine FEC is another free city service that provides residents with personalized, professional financial counseling to prepare for home ownership and other financial goals.

The Blake family explains the importance of housing resources, and how they have benefited their family, to Mayor Mason and Gov. Evers. – Credit: Emma Widmar

The FEC has served 350 city residents since the establishment of the program in 2020 and has achieved helping those in Racine to reduce more than $450,000 in debts. The FEC has also helped residents increase their credit scores an average of 35 points, and even increased savings by more than $85,000.

“We are really thrilled to offer this service in partnership with HRI and to have the city say clearly to our residents, ‘we believe in you. We believe in your potential and we think your financial resiliency is just as important as anything else that the city offers,'” Selkowe told Gov. Evers during the discussion.

Evers backs affordable and accessible housing efforts

The topic of housing hits close to home for Gov. Evers, and not just as someone who oversees the state.

During the discussion, he explained one of his daughters experienced challenges with homeownership.

“The first time that she was thinking about getting a house, she knew she couldn’t do it. The City of Madison stepped in. Now just 20 years later, she’s a successful woman and she has a great job. She’s bought and sold several houses a long way, she’s still a homeowner,” Evers said.

Investing in local programs can make a difference, according to local officials.

“It was that spark that she got from the government, of all people, and it helped her along the way to help her be successful,” said Evers about his daughter.

Evers also acknowledged that he has $150 million in the upcoming budget for affordable housing, which will be distributed across the state. Additionally, Gov. Evers explained the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) is providing $100 million in low-interest loans for new homeowners, too.

The house, located on Albert Street in the Lincoln King neighborhood, is one of hopefully five houses that will be made available to city residents. The house is expected to hit the market at the end of April 2023. – Credit: Emma Widmar

The State budget report can be viewed online here.

“Racine has done an outstanding job utilizing the resources they have to create housing,” said Evers. He continued, “they understand the importance that housing has to the emotional well-being. I know the Mayor will say we’ve got a lot more to do, I understand that, but what a great start.”

Unlocking Racine

Unlocking Racine is a year-long solutions-based multi-media project which is shedding much-needed light on the housing instability crisis in Racine County. The Racine County Eye, which includes the Kenosha Lens, is committed to serving our local communities with integrity. We are your source for local news that serves our diverse communities. Subscribe today to stay up-to-date with local news.

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