Milwaukee Housing Authority: Common Ground calls for investigation

After multiple complaints of unacceptable conditions at Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee residences, Common Ground announced a campaign to demand an investigation Sunday, March 26. 

The group says it listened to more than 1,000 people living in 17 properties operated by HACM. Common Ground said they’re forced to live with rats, bed bugs, mold, unreliable heat and air conditioning and more. They accuse HACM of retaliation against those who speak up.

"We need to bring accountability to a system where residents -- many of whom are seniors and people with disabilities -- do not feel safe, where management insults and intimidates residents, where rent payments are "lost," where heat and air conditioning don't work, where residents live with rats, bedbugs and mold, and where the director makes $240,000," said Will Davis, pastor of Invisible Reality Ministries and member of Common Ground’s executive team.

"I'm tired," said Roye Chris Logan, who lives at Mitchell Court. "I'm fed up with them putting us off, not doing like they supposed to do."

She was one of a dozen renters sharing their experience at Common Ground's assembly Sunday, describing living conditions inside their apartment buildings owned by HACM.

"Residents have spoken up, and they've been met by silence," said Thad Winkle, Common Ground. "They've been met by inadequate solutions, and at times, they've been met by retaliation."

Recently, FOX6 News told you about problems at Locust Court, a Housing Authority building. Those problems include only one working elevator in the building with 230 units. Residents told FOX6 the second elevator has been down since December.

"It’s a lot of seniors and disabled people, and they aren’t able to walk," said Timothy Wilburn.

Residents said they want the elevator repaired and for their concerns to be addressed.

"They act like they don’t care about us," said Wilma Gibson. 

In January, FOX6 was at Locust Court after at least 21 vehicles were broken into. Residents woke up to broken windows and shattered glass in a place that is supposed to be secure.

"We’re all senior citizens, you know?" said Jabe Johnson, Sr. "We don’t have a lot of money to pay $100-$200 to get a window put back in."

This wasn't the first time the parking lot at a Housing Authority complex has been hit. Several cars at the Merrill Park building were repeatedly hit over the summer in 2022 despite cameras and security.

"It’s real frustrating," said Johnson, Sr.

"Doing it over and over again, and they’re preying on us senior citizens," said Joyce Williams.

In summer 2021, we told you about a rat problem at Westlawn Gardens.

"You see rats back here, big rats. You see trash that builds up," said one resident, who asked not to be identified.

In a statement, HACM said the problem stemmed from construction across the street likely displacing the rats.

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"Just because we're low-income, elderly or disabled does not mean we do not deserve better homes," said Logan.

Common Ground and residents want HACM to work with them on six areas of reform:

  1. Deferred maintenance: Invest at least $75 million to address deferred and essential maintenance, in consultation with residents, over the next two years.
  2. Management: Create a resident-centered management system (including culture, accountability, training, and hiring) with residents participating in every aspect.
  3. Pests/rodents: Hire a third-party pest control company to inspect each property for bugs and rodents and provide a complete evaluation and comprehensive plan for eradicating and keeping them at bay.
  4. Security: Develop and implement a new public safety plan to address crime and safety in and around HACM properties.
  5. Tenant rights: Respect residents’ civil rights, including the right to assemble and organize. Ensure tenants are informed of and guaranteed due process for all grievances or disciplinary actions.
  6. Accountability: Fund a full-time ombudsperson who would conduct independent and professional investigations of complaints lodged by HACM residents, employees or taxpayers.

Milwaukee Common Council President José Pérez also spoke at Sunday's assembly. He pledged his support to help remedy the situation however he can. 

Housing Authority statement

"The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee's (HACM) highest priority is to provide excellent service and quality affordable housing options to more than 10,000 households throughout Milwaukee. HACM takes residents' concerns very seriously. We are aware of issues raised by residents, many of which have been resolved, and others that we have been actively working to address. When other matters are brought to our attention, we will address them as well. HACM's mission has been to provide critical affordable housing to Milwaukeeans for nearly 80 years. Despite significant underfunding for affordable housing, we have continued to be resilient in advancing our mission and providing opportunities for our residents to thrive. We will continue to find solutions to ensure safe, healthy living environments for our residents. For more detailed information about HACM's efforts, please visit"