The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission promised two years ago to conduct a regional housing study.
SEWRPC didn't want to do this study -- SEWRPC is essentially a creature of the Republican suburbs, and the less time and effort it has to spend on things involving poor people, the better. SEWRPC even tried to get out of doing the study by saying the feds didn't give it enough money to conduct a housing study, but a bunch of folks pointed out that SEWRPC was able to find the money to conduct a regional water supply study, so why couldn't it do the same for a housing study?
SEWRPC gave in. SEWRPC Executive Director Phil Evenson wrote on June 1, 2005: "The Commission intends to address the topic of affordable housing in a separate planning effort that will follow completion of the forthcoming updated regional land use plan."
And on June 5, 2005, he made some more promises in this e-mail:
We first addressed housing issues in the 1970s (see Planning Report No. 20 on the website). Then came the 1980s and a loss of housing-related funding and staff. When the State modified the comp planning law in 1999 (so-called "smart growth"), we concluded that we would need to
renew housing planning sometime in this decade (see "Regional Framework"paper under Smart Growth on the website). We will begin later this year by creating an advisory committee of knowledgeable and interested individuals. That committee will be asked to help us address several fundamental questions, including purpose, scope, and schedule. Once that has been accomplished, we will execute the agreed-upon work effort. (Emphasis added)
SEWRPC didn't follow through.
When groups complained that SEWRPC's transportation and land use studies did not include enough consideration of housing patterns, SEWRPC said housing would be studied next.
It wasn't. SEWRPC didn't keep its promise.
SEWRPC Executive Director Phil Evenson still says his agency will get around to the housing study some day, but it doesn't have the money now. (It does, though, have the money to throw around for a $50,000 no-bid contract for old friends.)
Ald. Michael Murphy had the temerity to suggest that political considerations might be playing into SEWRPC's delay strategy. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel responded with the rather bizarre suggestion that Murphy raise the money for the SEWRPC study.
SEWRPC's behavior is appalling, but not surprising. It doesn't do urban issues well, because SEWRPC folks don't really like urban people. It is even conducting a study of Milwaukee's 30th Street Industrial Corridor (see no-bid contract referenced above) from the County Grounds in Wauwatosa.
City folks should always remember that they do not have a friend, or even a neutral observer, in SEWRPC. SEWRPC's work and attitudes reflect its comfort zone -- western Pewaukee, untroubled by-- and out of reach of -- the city's poor.