Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski announced yesterday that she was forming a task force on homeownership.
The 22-person task force consists of county and city treasurers as well as representatives from organizations like the League of Municipalities and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA).
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, home ownership in Wisconsin has declined over the last decade.
WHEDA CEO Joaquín Altoro, says that’s a problem because homeownership is one of the simplest paths to building wealth.
“Whatever income level that you come from, there are so many different sophisticated and maybe a little bit less sophisticated ways as to how you can grow your wealth,” says Altoro. “We’re taught that we should save our money, we should invest wisely, and the one way that I personally feel-and I’ve seen personally with my own family-that really was able to create a long and sustainable way of creating wealth creation and sustainability was a home.”
Godlewski’s announcement comes a week after the National Realtors Association issued a report on race and home buying in the country.
According to that report, Wisconsin has the third worst rate of homeownership among black Americans.
Godlewksi says Wisconsin’s homeownership rates have also declined most prominently among young people and other minority groups.
“There are African American families that are on the decline,” says Godlewski. “They are part of an additional group which is looking at first-time home buyers, young families, as well as Hispanic families, and so I think we want to cut across these different groups to really understand why is homeownership on the decline. Is it because there is a lack of resources? Or is it because they don’t know the resources available? Could it be about affordability? And so we want to peel the onion back and really get a sense on why this is and make sure that we are developing meaningful solutions to address it rather than just checking the box.”
Apart from helping prospective buyers purchase a home, the Treasurers’ “Homeowners Task Force” will help homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes.
Adam Gallagher is Dane County’s Treasurer and a member of the task force. He says Madison has a number of resources to support these at-risk individuals.
“City of Madison has a housing rehabilitation specialist, and if it’s someone who is over the age of 65 and starting to fall behind on taxes but they’re not in the worst condition at this point, I will give them the city phone number of [608-]266-4223,” says Gallagher. “If it’s more of a medical or a disability issue, a couple of those resources that I often refer people to could be anything from Capital Consortium, Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, and the list goes on.”
Gallagher also says that one of the things the task force will do is try to spread awareness about housing resources available to Wisconsin residents.
The task force is still in its initial planning phase, and its first meeting was yesterday. Godlewski says the next step is to ask Wisconsin residents about their problems.
“So whether there are listening sessions that will be as part of the meeting agenda, or separate listening sessions, but as my mom would always joke with me: God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason, Sarah,” says Godlewski. “So do more listening and less talking. Listening to what Wisconsinites need will be a critical part of our roll-out strategy.”
According to Godlewksi, the task force hopes to complete its work by the end of the year and help make policy changes in 20-21.
Reporting for WORT News, I’m Martin Rakacolli.