Maysam Abdeljaber, “Challenging Housing Injustice in Milwaukee”
Mentor: Arijit Sen, Architecture
This research is a part of a bigger project called “Climates of Inequality.” Organized by the Humanities Action Lab, a coalition of universities led by Rutgers University-Newark working with issue organizations and public spaces, this participatory public memory research project engaged students, educators, and community leaders from over 20 cities across the US and around the world in order to expose the roots of current environmental injustice, and share generations of frontline communities’ strategies for resistance, resilience, and mitigation. The Milwaukee community’s story is critical in this global vision and action around climate and environmental justice. The proposed paper situates the history of housing injustice in Milwaukee’s Northside neighborhoods within a timeline documenting explicit national housing policies starting with the 1862 Homestead Act up to present-day proposals. The purpose of this macro-scale policy-timeline is to comprehend the unjust consequences of national governmental decisions on housing conditions in Milwaukee. The timeline illuminates how national housing policies impact local (Milwaukee) housing trends around three distinct areas: (1) equitable housing, (2) homeownership, and (3) housing finance. In addition, this paper examines the granular everyday consequences of housing injustice by analyzing data collected from 7 local foreclosed homes in Sherman Park and Washington Park neighborhoods of Milwaukee. This includes a detailed study of the physical conditions, ownership history, and oral histories of residents of the neighborhoods. Despite the difficulties, the ethnographic research demonstrates community resilience, identifying ways in which residents resist injustice. This paper discusses specific local responses to ensure equitable housing, homeownership, and housing finance.
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