Henry Wehrs, “Institutions and Out-Of-State Investors: Homeownership and Rental Housing in Milwaukee”
Mentor: Jamie Harris, Urban Studies
Low investment costs. High rate of return. This is what a growing number of investors across the U.S. see in Milwaukee’s housing market. My research explores increasing out-of-state investment in the Milwaukee rental housing market. In order to examine the potential conflict between rental investors and aspiring Milwaukee homeowners, I investigate the processes by which homes are bought and sold by various actors. After the 2008 financial crisis, institutional investors largely ignored Milwaukee because rents were low compared to other metropolitan areas across the country. But recently, investors are noticing Milwaukee as a place where lower property values make rental housing very profitable. By positioning the city of Milwaukee’s home sales to out-of-state investors alongside its programs to promote homeownership, I contextualize the city’s role in the rental housing market. This study also explores the roles of investor-to-investor sales and non-profit organizations. By analyzing home sales data, I look at the process by which single-family homes are sold in bulk from investor to investor, and how that affects the housing stock available to aspiring homeowners. By discussing the role of non-profits like Acts Housing, which provides resources to homebuyers, I compare home-buying processes on the individual and institutional level. Previous research demonstrates the uptick in out-of-state rental investment in Milwaukee’s single-family market. By examining the key actors and processes that spur both out-of-state sales and local homeownership, this study will address the implications of current programs and the trajectory of single-family homeownership in Milwaukee.