Published in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

August 5, 2011

U.S. Bank did the right thing last week in announcing that it would commit more than $16 million to help neighborhoods in Milwaukee hammered by foreclosures.

The bank is the fourth to pledge money to stabilize housing efforts in the wake of the housing crash. Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and Wells Fargo have pledged $15.2 million to the Milwaukee Rising initiative started by the community organization Common Ground. The effort is focused on the Sherman Park neighborhood.

We've argued that the banks that either held or hold the most bad loans in the city should do their part to limit the damage.

More than 6,200 property owners are in some stage of foreclosure in Milwaukee. Lenders own about 1, 600 foreclosed properties; the city owns more than 600. In the past couple of years, Milwaukee's tax base has lost nearly $2 billion in value, which translates into $16.7 million of lost tax revenue.

U.S. Bank said it would set up a $1 million community restoration fund to acquire and rehabilitate foreclosed properties and pledge up to $15 million in mortgages to qualified borrowers in targeted neighborhoods over the next four years. U.S. Bank also said it would provide more than $240,000 in grants to housing agencies working within the city of Milwaukee.

"Our goal and the goal of Common Ground was to work with the five largest institutions that played a significant role in the foreclosure crisis, and four of the five have agreed to step up to provide financial assistance," said Ald. Michael Murphy, the chair of the council's Finance Committee.

The last of the five is J.P. Morgan Chase; we urge Chase to come to the table.

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