May 23, 2024

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Equality opinion

How to get rental assistance in Wisconsin

A “for rent” sign is seen outside of a home on Griffin Street in Milwaukee on June 29, 2021. With long waits for rental assistance and the growing tide of evictions looming, some renters are questioning how Milwaukee County and the city will keep thousands of residents afloat. (Isaac Wasserman / Wisconsin Watch)

If I haven’t applied yet, am I still
eligible and what help can I get?

Yes.
Eligible applicants may receive up to 15 months of aid in a combination of
rental payments and/or security deposits. These payments will be paid directly
to the landlord on behalf of the tenant. To apply, applicants must:

How do I apply?

There
are two programs in Milwaukee:

  • Community Advocates serves Milwaukee and Waukesha
    counties and can be reached online or at 414-270-4646. You can also pick up and
    drop off a hard copy application at their office at 728 North James Lovell St.
    in Milwaukee from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Waukesha County
    residents can pick up and drop off hard copy applications at these sites.
  • The Social Development
    Commission

    (SDC) serves the city of Milwaukee and can be reached online or at
    414-906-2700. You can also head to their main office at 1730 West North Ave. in Milwaukee to get in-person
    help with your application.

If
you do not live in Milwaukee County, there are other agencies that can help
you.

The
Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) coordinates the
program through its member agencies
. Most agencies offer online
applications, but some instruct applicants to send an email requesting a WERA
application. Apply at the agency that serves your county, as outlined below:

If
you live in Brown, Dane and Waukesha counties and the city of Madison, here’s
where renters there can go:

  • Newcap serves Brown County’s and can be
    reached at 800-242-7334.
  • Tenant Resource Center serves Madison and surrounding Dane
    County. It can be reached online or at 608-257-0006.

To
apply you must provide the following information and documentation:

  • Driver’s license or state ID.
  • Documentation of income you receive.
  • Proof of financial
    hardship

    (including loss of employment, reduced hours of employment and an applicant or
    other adult in household not working in order to supervise virtual learning).
  • Eviction notice or arrears statement.

If I’m in Milwaukee, should I apply
to both SDC and Community Advocates?

SDC
and Community Advocates have recommended against applying to both programs,
because it would add to the backlog of cases still needing to be processed by
the agencies. Representatives of the Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union,
however, have recommended that residents apply to all programs they are
eligible for because one application could be processed much faster than the
other.

Am I eligible if I am undocumented,
a non-citizen or have no Social Security number?

Rental assistance funds come from the federal government, and
Congress left eligibility open to non-citizens — including those who lack
Social Security numbers or are undocumented. Neither states nor local
governments may impose their own immigration restrictions in lieu of the
federal government, according to a National Housing Law Project fact sheet.

Wisconsin residents can apply for rental assistance as long as
they meet income-related requirements.

Applicants will not be asked about their immigration status at
any point during the process.

Accepting rental assistance should not harm an immigrant’s
application for legal status under the concept of the “public charge,” legal experts say.

What do I do if my application is
still pending and my landlord still hasn’t received payment?

Try
asking the organization you applied to for an update.

If
you’re a Milwaukee resident struggling to get a hold of a representative,
contact the Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union at 414-410-9714 or via email outreach@matunion.org to speak with volunteers who can
directly reach out to their contacts at either SDC or Community Advocates.

Alternatively
you can contact us, News414, by texting “MKE” to 73224. For Spanish, text
“MKEESP” to 73224. We will try to connect you with the right folks to get an
update on your application and any other information you might need.

Who else can I contact for help?

  • Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee: 414-727-5300
  • Mediate Milwaukee: 414-939-8800
  • Legal Action of Wisconsin: 855-947-2529
  • Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union: 414-410-9714