by Sonya Jongsma Knauss

I am in the midst of packing boxes as I write. I may still be in the midst of packing boxes as you read. We are getting ready to leave our first residence in Riverwest and moving to our first home. It’s only seven blocks from where we live now, but I’ve been told we’re moving to the “Riverwest ‘burbs,” since the move will take us north of Locust Street. Before now, I never knew such a place existed. I do know I will miss looking out the window and seeing the clock on St. Casimir’s, or running out the door for the half-block trek to the Riverwest Co-op at least once or twice a day to pick up a little something I need for a recipe. I will miss our good neighbors and being a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Bremen Cafe. But here we are, despite the change from one block to another, in the same neighborhood. We like it here, but it was still only recently we even considered that we might be able to buy a house here. Buying a home always seemed to me to be a difficult, intimidating step to take. Like something older, more settled, stable and financially secure people did. But working on this newspaper and reading the articles on the housing pages convinced me otherwise. A retired friend of mine from the co-op put it this way: “When I was younger, I thought buying a house was just buying into some capitalist scheme. I thought it was buying into the system. But I didn’t realize that paying someone else rent was even worse!” I never opposed home ownership on principle, but I just didn’t know that our family could do it. So I did a little checking and realized it was a definite possibility. We worked with a wonderful counselor at Select Milwaukee. They have a great program for first-time, low-income home buyers, and she was able to tell us exactly which programs would be most beneficial for us. If you’re even thinking of getting a home, sign up for their home buying seminar. For one thing, buying a home helps stabilize a neighborhood. Homeowners are statistically more likely to take care of the place they live in and put in time and energy making their neighborhood a good place. But there are other reasons to buy too. Are you a long-time or new resident worried about gentrification? Buy a house and stay here; help keep some continuity between the “old” neighborhood and what will eventually be the new one. Are you frustrated with the constant stream of people moving in and out of a house on your block because the landlord can’t seem to do a decent job of picking good tenants? Maybe you could buy the place and have some say in who your neighbors are. A friend of mine owns three houses on her block now. It’s a good time to buy in Riverwest and make it a more permanent home — “For Sale” signs are all over the place. With low interest rates and prices that threaten to go even higher in the next couple years, there’s no time like the present to strengthen your stake in the neighborhood. Editors Note: We’ve added a few people to our roster this month, including new writers, an editorial intern, and new sales and marketing staff. Look inside to see some of our regular offerings, plus check out our new Green Spaces section, a page dedicated to Riverwest’s parks and public spaces (see p. 15). Also check out our next two issues for a special Neighborhood Commerce guide to holiday shopping in the neighborhood. Our “Do Your Holiday Shopping in Riverwest” features will tell you about the products and services that exist in the neighborhood if you want to spend your money locally to support our community. This month’s newpaper also features the first installment Current Media column by Currents webmaster Dan Knauss. Each month will feature a sample of his online column, commentary on local, state, and national media stories of interest to Riverwest residents. Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle’s regular column, The View From Here, will return next month. Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 9 – October 2002