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Tenants of evacuated apartments face end of paid temporary housing

By Bruce Harrison, Mariam Mackar,


Residents displaced from The Community Within the Corridor (CWC) have been given an option to voluntarily terminate their leases for cash ahead of an end to temporary housing, according to an email to tenants.

In the email, obtained by TMJ4 News, CWC said it's offering $5,000 in compensation to each household to help find new housing if they choose to terminate their leases. Tenants have a deadline of June 16.

CWC also said it's discontinuing all "stipends or reimbursements — including food, transportation, and lodging," on June 27, according to the email.

The tenants have been living in hotels and other temporary housing since late March when the building was evacuated. The CWC has been paying for the housing as well as food, transportation and other stipends.

On Friday, CWC confirmed it's offering the voluntary termination option. A spokesperson told TMJ4 News when stipends/payments are discontinued on June 27, CWC will have reimbursed tenants for all rent previously paid, covered lodging, food, and transportation.

The spokesperson said that's in addition to the $5,000 to help tenants find long-term housing, and tenants are welcome to return to the East Building once the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) allows re-occupancy.

According to the spokesperson, residents have been informed that if they choose not to sign they would need to find alternate housing on their own without the $5,000.

How the residents lost their homes

In late March, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) alerted Milwaukee Health Department to elevated levels of trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent and known carcinogen, in the building. The health department then led an evacuation of the East Building.

The DNR has said CWC disregarded their guidelines for a series of tests on a system to mitigate toxic vapor before allowing occupants. CWC said it moved people in late last year, and its vapor mitigation system was working properly.

According to state public records, some TCE levels throughout the building have dropped. But in its latest letter to CWC this week, the DNR said status reports have not shown that system "has, or likely will," work at a level to "protect public health."

More from the CWC on Friday

According to a statement from CWC, "Because of these recently shared re-occupancy requirements, residents will now need to secure alternate long-term housing and we are working with them to facilitate their transition. We have identified local partners to assist individuals and families with this process and communicated those details to residents."

CWC also said in the statement that they were optimistic residents would be able to return to their homes within a 'reasonable timeframe.' That is no longer the case.

According to the CWC statement, "Over the past two months, we were optimistic that residents would be able to return to their homes within a reasonable timeframe. However, the requirements presented jointly by officials during the meeting and in subsequent communications will not make that possible. In particular, the fact that permissions for re-occupancy will likely not be provided until early 2024 is a devastating setback to our residents and the CWC team alike."

CWC said they will work with residents to retrieve all of their belongings prior to the end of the month.

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