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Ozaukee REALTORS® Find Continued Success With Fair Housing

Ozaukee County is a small community with a big heart. And that is perpetuated even further with its commitment to fair housing.

By Anthony SanFilippo
Bowling for Freedom

Twenty miles north of downtown Milwaukee, right along Lake Michigan sits an upper-middle class community with the top school district in the state of Wisconsin.

Ozaukee County is the smallest county in Wisconsin, and it has that Americana, small-town feel.

“It’s a wonderful, small community,” said Troy Bretl, President of the Ozaukee REALTORS® Association (ORA). “It’s all hometown stuff here – we have our big July 4th celebration with a parade at the park, fireworks and live music – and we have festivals throughout the year.”

Despite its size, Ozaukee County is great for tourism and is one of the largest tourism destinations in the state.

Its Strawberry Festival in June attracts people from all across the state as well as far away as Illinois and Minnesota.

It’s a small community with a big heart. And that is perpetuated even further with its commitment to fair housing.

ORA has partnered with the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association and the National Association of REALTORS® to dedicate efforts in 2018 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Fair Housing Act.

And they’ve done that by working on a grassroots awareness campaign to educate, inform and remind Wisconsin residents that home ownership is not something that only the privileged can enjoy but that it is something that everyone has the right to experience for themselves.

Fair housing makes us stronger because it shows we are all truly united with wanting the same goals for ourselves and our families.Click To Tweet

“Fair housing makes us stronger because it shows we are all truly united with wanting the same goals for ourselves and our families,” Bretl said.

There are many tools at the disposal of REALTORS® in Ozaukee County to help make that home ownership dream a reality for many Wisconsin residents.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a Rural Development Program that provides assistance to low or middle-income families so they can have the opportunity to own a home as a primary residence in eligible rural areas of the state.

In Ozaukee County alone, that program has provided more than $31 million in single-family home loans since 2008, with more than $5 million coming in 2017, representing more than 200 single-family homes in the past decade.

Additionally, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) has been in existence since 1972 and has provided approximately $103 million in single-family first mortgages in Ozaukee County alone.

“More than 1,100 families have been able to buy a home in the past five years thanks to WHEDA,” Bretl said.

In that same five-year span, WHEDA has doled out $1.3 million in multi-family loans in Ozaukee County as well as approximately $676,000 in Down Payment Assistance Loans since 2002.

Another active participant in Ozaukee County that ORA has been advocating is the Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development, which has administered 99 down payment grants in Ozaukee County since 2008.

ORA even partners with other organizations – like Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity had a 30-for-30 fundraiser in April where it reached out to local businesses to donate $1 a day – or $30 – to help build strong communities and help with projects in the area.

ORA upped their donation to $50 – in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

That money went toward the construction of a duplex in Grafton, which is slated to be ready in 2019, allowing for an affordable home option for two families.

“It’s not quite the same as fair housing, but affordability is also an issue here in Wisconsin and affordability and fair housing definitely cross paths, so we thought this was a good way to promote fair housing while also supporting more affordable housing options as well,” Bretl said.

Finally, the WRA has a Partnerships for Success Program that is under the purview of the Cultural Diversity Committee that is part of the WRA, and ORA both supports and promotes this program.

“This program has brokers sponsoring people who otherwise might not be able to afford to become a REALTOR® – it’s an application process, so not everyone gets it – but the recipients are able to get assistance with membership and licensing costs.”

It’s another way ORA helps its members, as well as members of the state organization, and in the process remind them how important it is to help potential homeowners fulfill the dream of home ownership.

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