Near West Side project to feature affordable units
integrating people with disabilities with seniors
The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) has announced that Bethesda Cornerstone Village-Highland is among the projects to receive tax credits for 2021. The project would bring much-needed affordable housing to Milwaukee’s Near West Side, serving both people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and active seniors.
incredibly grateful for the confidence WHEDA has shown in Bethesda Cornerstone Village,”
said Mike Thirtle, President and CEO of Bethesda. “Working alongside supportive
community partners, we will lead the way in creating a caring and inclusive
community that empowers people of all abilities to live lives of independence
and promise. We cannot wait to open our doors to positively impact the Near
West Side neighborhood and foster community.”
Village-Highland will be located at 3200 W. Highland Blvd., currently home to
Aurora Family Service. Advocate Aurora Health is generously donating the
property for the project. Up to 20% of the units in this 68 apartment home
community will be set aside for people with I/DD, and 10 of them will be reserved
for those who are at risk of homelessness. Most of the units will be rented at affordable
In addition, the Milwaukee Center
for Independence is anticipated to provide community-based services such as
benefits advocacy, employment and skills training, case management, and art,
music, pet and horticultural therapy. Bethesda engaged Milwaukee-based Quorum
Architects Inc. to create plans for the new living space. Cardinal Capital
Management is also partnering with Bethesda on the project, which is expected
to begin construction work later this year.
Launched in Minnesota
Bethesda Cornerstone Village integrates people with
disabilities with individuals of all abilities, with the first development opening
last September in Victoria, Minn. Each Cornerstone Village provides not only a
high-quality physical space, but also fosters social connections and community
among residents and with neighbors through rich resident life activities.
Similar to the development in
Minnesota, Cornerstone Village-Highland will include ample common spaces – a
multiple purpose community room with a kitchen, fitness center, reading and
technology lounge, common patio and an outdoor play area. To bring these spaces
to life, a director of activities will be on staff to create and customize
events and classes that appeal to the personality of the community. Events may
include yoga and exercise classes, coffee hours, book clubs, bible studies,
cooking demonstrations, education presentations and group trips to nearby
“Cornerstone Village is really
an entirely new living option, one that makes it possible for people of all
abilities to enjoy truly joyful living,” Thirtle said. “This is the quality of
life that the people of the Near West Side rightfully deserve.”
The project will also help meet a significant need
for housing. According to The ARC, more than 850,000 people in the U.S. with
intellectual or developmental disabilities live with an aging caregiver (60+).
A shortage of housing and support services increases the risk that these
individuals will become institutionalized or homeless.
In addition, affordability is an ongoing issue.
According to the Technical Assistance Collaborative, in 2016 there was no housing
market in the U.S. where a person with a disability whose sole source of income
was SSI could afford a safe, decent rental unit. There are 4.8 million people
with disabilities in the U.S. living only on SSI.
WHEDA support is critical
Each year, WHEDA allocates affordable housing tax credits through the federal Internal Revenue Code and
the Wisconsin tax code that encourage developers to create qualified affordable
housing. Developers agree to reserve all or a portion of their housing units
for low- and moderate-income households for at least 30 years in exchange for
credits. Any remaining units are rented at market rates. The developers then
sell the tax credits to private investors to obtain funding. Once the housing
project is available to residents, investors can claim the tax credit as a
dollar-for-dollar reduction of federal and/or Wisconsin income taxes owed over
a 10-year period.
Developments that receive
affordable housing tax credits go through a highly competitive application
process administered by WHEDA. Tax credit developments must meet high design
and operating standards. WHEDA judges projects based on strong management,
excellent development quality, demonstrated market need, provision of
supportive services and amenities, proximity to economic opportunities and
proper local zoning.
Besides the Highland project,
Bethesda is pursuing additional developments across the country, including in
Wisconsin, Minnesota and California.