'Owner-occupancy required:' City leaders say man who got house for $7,500 took advantage, cost taxpayers

MILWAUKEE -- Is the City of Milwaukee being fleeced by absentee landlords? That was the question at the heart of a city committee meeting Monday morning, Sept. 23, centering around one new homeowner city leaders believe took advantage of the city, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.

The city sold a home near 29th and State to Hosea Bates of Glendale for $7,500 in May 2018, and expected him to move in. Without owner-occupancy, the city could sue.

After selling more than 2,000 abandoned or foreclosed homes over the last five years, city leaders said Milwaukee was ripped off when the home near 29th and State was sold for only $7,500. It was repaired and rehabilitated by the city, at a cost of $128,000, with one stipulation for the buyer.

Alderman Bob Bauman

"Owner-occupancy was required," said Alderman Bob Bauman, who asked the city attorney during Monday's committee meeting whether the man was living in the home.

"I've never seen the man, Alderman," the city attorney replied.

Alderman Bauman said Bates was not sticking to the deal.

"Neighbors reported to me that no one had ever -- that the owner had apparently not been living there," said Alderman Bauman.

Alderman Russell Stamper

No one answered when FOX6 News stopped by the home on Monday.

Alderman Russell Stamper said the program deserves further scrutiny, but, in theory, should benefit the city, despite an initial investment from taxpayers.

"The benefit is, we have a home back on the tax roll," said Alderman Stamper. " We have a new homeowner, and the house is preserved in the historic preservation process."

Tax records listed a Glendale home as Bates' address. There was no answer when FOX6 News stopped by that home Monday.

Investigators said some indicators cast doubt on the address accusations.

"He produced a Wisconsin driver's license with the State Street address, showing his address, and his name also appears on the mailbox on the property," the city attorney said.

The city could seek legal action against Bates for violating the terms of the agreement.

"I think we are going to have to reevaluate," said Alderman Stamper. "That's a huge investment."

According to tax records, the duplex was built in 1895.

A city investigator was able to meet with Bates at the address recently, but did not go inside.

FOX6 News spoke with Bates Monday evening. Bates said he's living in the home on State Street, and he took FOX6 News inside to see the fully-furnished home. Bates said he was consulting with his attorney after Monday's meeting.