Is Milwaukee’s Luxury Apartment Boom Widening the Housing Gap?

Do more luxury apartments mean a widening “housing gap”?

And lo, Barry Mandel said, “Let there be luxury apartments.” And there were luxury apartments, and he proclaimed them good.

On North Water Street, Mandel truly is the Creator. The developer’s North End apartment complex, scheduled for completion in 2017, will include more than 500 units spread across five buildings, three of which have already opened and are now mostly filled with eager young professionals and empty nesters. Like nearly all new apartments in the city, these rent on the higher end of the scale – $1,200 or more a month for a one-bedroom or about $2,000 for a two-bedroom.

A recent study by found that Milwaukee was one of six metro areas that built nothing but luxury apartments in 2015. Mark Eppli, a professor of finance at Marquette University, says there’s something of a “housing gap,” in that the vast majority of new buildings are too expensive for most renters, even though Milwaukee’s vacancy rate for apartments has hovered in the low single digits.

But will there be enough demand to support all of Commerce Street’s marble-countered boomtown? “I think we’re pushing that,” Eppli says.

‘Upper Crust’ appears in the August issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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Matt has written for Milwaukee Magazine since 2006, when he was a lowly intern. Since then, he’s held the posts of assistant news editor and, most recently, senior editor. He’s lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, and Indiana but mostly in Wisconsin. He wants to do more fishing but has a hard time finding worms. For the magazine, Matt has written about city government, schools, religion, coffee roasters and Congress.