Politics & Government
1:00 am
Thu May 29, 2014

Milwaukee To Demolish 200 Abandoned Homes This Summer

A crane demolishes an abandoned home Wednesday in Milwaukee's central city.
A crane demolishes an abandoned home Wednesday in Milwaukee's central city.
Credit Marti Mikkelson

Within the next month, crews will demolish dozens of abandoned homes in Milwaukee.

The state has given the city $2 million to clear the deteriorated properties.

Near 34th and Garfield on Wednesday, about 20 people stood in front of the two-story white house, as a crane with a claw tore into the back. Frank Thomas lives across the street and says he’s glad to see it go.

“There was a Hmong family in there for about three years and then all of a sudden they were gone," Thomas says. "It was a nice house when they were there, but when they left it went downhill."

Another person watching the demolition is Peter Bildsten. He traveled here from Madison – he’s secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. Bildsten says the state’s $2 million commitment will go a long way.

“At an average cost of around $10,000 per home, they’re going to be able to remove 200 vacant, abandoned, blighted properties that are dragging down the values of every home in the neighborhood,” Bildsten says.

The state got the money from fines it imposed on financial institutions that were engaging in bad business practices, Bildsten says. The city is also contributing $12 million over a three-year period, according to Art Dahlberg. He's the city director of Neighborhood Service. Dahlberg says people should soon notice a difference.

“At the beginning of the year, we had roughly 500 properties that absolutely had to be torn down," Dahlberg says. "They were public safety hazards. They were sources for criminal activity in neighborhoods. What we’ll make sure of before we leave is the building will be down, it will be graded, it will be seeded, so there will at least be a nice lawn for neighbors to look at."

“Tearing it down is step one,” state Rep. Evan Goyke of Milwaukee says. “But there has to be a step two, three, four and five to make sure that this little spot of earth is filled with a productive use and a family that can come in and a new property there and this neighborhood isn’t left with a broken smile, a toothless smile of empty lots."

Goyke says he hopes the state keeps the money flowing, so Milwaukee can continue rebuilding neighborhoods.