Wisconsin Law Firm Challenges State Housing Program That Gives Less Help to White Families

by Benjamin Yount


There’s another challenge to another coronavirus stimulus program that gives more benefits to non-white families in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) sent a letter to Gov. Tony Evers urging him to change the specifics of the Wisconsin Help for Homeowners program.

“Congress also authorized states to expand this program to include higher income limits, but with an important restriction. A state may expand the income eligibility up to 150% of AMI, but if a state makes that choice, then only ‘socially disadvantaged individuals’ with incomes in that higher bracket may receive a benefit,” the letter states. “The phrase ‘socially disadvantaged individuals,’ … is defined as including only ‘Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.’”

WILL says a report from the state’s Department of Administration further clarified that “socially disadvantaged” means “those whose householder is in any racial or ethnic group besides non-Hispanic/Latinx White.”

WILL’s president and general counsel, Rick Esenberg, said it is unconstitutional for the government to withhold benefits from someone because of the color of their skin.

“The government cannot condition benefits and assistance based on race,” Esenberg said. “Gov. Evers should make clear that Wisconsin’s housing assistance grants will not discriminate on the basis of skin color.”

The Help for Homeowners program, for example, won’t pay for housing assistance for a white family of four who makes just over $100,000 a year in Dane County. Non-white families in Dane County can make up to $150,000 and still qualify for housing assistance. It’s nearly the same $50,000 difference, though the specific numbers are different, in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Brown, Outagamie, Eau Claire, Kenosha and Rock counties as well.

“Such racial classifications are illegal. Government policies that classify people by race are presumptively invalid under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution,” WILL wrote in its letter to the governor.

This is not the first time WILL has challenged a Biden administration-authored coronavirus relief program because of race-based benefits.

WILL managed to halt both the the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which showed preference to non-white restaraunt owners, and the Farmer Loan Forgiveness Program, which did the same for non-white farmers.

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Benjamin Yount is a contributor to The Center Square.
Photo “Rick Esenberg” by Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.




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