Community Outreach Programs
Milwaukee Restoration Fund
But thanks to a program launched by U.S. Bank in 2011 to rehab foreclosed and abandoned homes in the city and make them livable again, the Harrises and their 2-year-old son are the proud owners of a 1,500 square-foot home.
"It’s twice the size of the place I was renting and I’m only paying about $50 more," said Harris, a military veteran who works as an accountant at the University of Wisconsin. "It was completely refurbished, produces electricity from photovoltaic panels, and has all new mechanical systems. It’s like a brand new house."
The largest bank in Milwaukee, U.S. Bank committed $1 million to launch the Community Restoration Fund in late 2011. Designed to complement the city of Milwaukee’s work in its Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) target zones, the Community Restoration Fund gives developers access to short-term capital they need to redevelop some of Milwaukee's neighborhoods most affected by the foreclosure crisis.
"U.S. Bank's fund provides short term financing to smaller developers who are creditworthy and experienced, but often lack the ability to gain financing quickly enough to purchase properties as they come on the market," said Maria Prioletta, city of Milwaukee redevelopment and special projects manager. "Now they are able to purchase, rehab, and sell the property sooner to qualified borrowers."
Funds are available to five qualifying developers at 0 percent interest. Those developers, in turn, reinvest proceeds from the sale of the revitalized homes back into the fund. Layton Boulevard West Neighbors, Inc. (LBWN), one of the qualifying developers, redeveloped the Harris’s home.
"The Community Restoration Fund has provided community development organizations like LBWN with working capital, which at this point in time is very difficult to obtain," said Jeremy Belot, project manager for LBWN. "Without it, we would not have accomplished as much as we have."
LBWN has acquired 18 properties using U.S. Bank’s Community Restoration Fund. Two of the properties have been fully renovated and two others are under construction. Work on the others is scheduled to begin in early 2013.
"These funds have had a direct effect on stabilizing the Layton Boulevard West neighborhood and surrounding area," Belot said.
It took LBWN seven months to acquire, renovate and sell the Harris property. The renovation of the home included completely redesigning the second floor which resulted in a four bedroom and two bathroom home. Because decades of deferred maintenance wore on the charm of the home LBWN had to restore the architectural character of the home. Maple floors were sanded and refinished; decorative oak base, window and door trim was restored and the built-in cabinets were refinished. The home's claw foot tub was re-enameled and reused in the first floor bathroom. All new high-efficiency lighting and plumbing fixtures were installed and the whole house was dry-walled and painted.
Harris, who moved into the home in October, says he loves how much of the original character and charm LBWN was able to preserve.
"They kept a lot of the historic features of the house (originally built in 1928) like a stained glass window, built-in hutch, claw-foot bath tub and hardwood floors," Harris said. He’s also impressed with the neighborhood – which is home to parks and two grocery stores -- and the sense of community that LBWN is helping to foster there.
Outside, LBWN removed deteriorated siding, added additional insulation and re-sided the home. The developer also installed a new roof and ran the downspouts into rain gardens. Using a grant from another bank, LBWN also made the home extremely energy efficient, installing extra insulation, photovoltaic solar panels, a high-efficiency electric heat pump water heater, high-efficiency furnace and central air, energy efficient lighting, Energy Star-rated windows and Water-Sense plumbing fixtures.
"To say that it works is an understatement," Harris said of the program. "I wish more people would take advantage of it."