How this Lao woman became an icon in US real estate


Two decades of amazing achievements for former Vietnam War refugee

Milwaukee by Lake Michigan at twilight. f11photo/Shutterstock

Michael Gosman, executive director of ACTS Housing, a nonprofit that helps low-income households buy and renovate dilapidated homes, can still remember overhearing Laotian-American realtor Blia Cha in a “heated” conversation with someone on the phone. After she hung up, Michael heard her exclaim, “’I just saved my buyer USD20!’”

Such was the bigheartedness of Blia Cha in helping clients climb the housing ladder in Milwaukee. ACTS recently threw a party in honour of the 62-year-old housing specialist, who retired last month after 24 years in service.

Blia, daughter of a Hmong farmer in Laos, came to the US to seek refuge from the Vietnam War in 1976. Her husband Tong had worked as an intelligence operative for the CIA.

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Transplanted in Milwaukee, Blia studied to get a GED and, later, a real estate licence. In 1993, Blia discovered that condemned, foreclosed homes were being sold at USD1 to buyers willing to renovate them.

Blia has since helped 792 families, mostly her compatriots and Asians, acquire and rehabilitate such homes. “I keep telling my buyers if there’s a house nearby on your block and you want your relatives to buy, you call me and I can help your family stay together so you can help each other babysitting and watch after each other for the safety of your family,” Blia told the Journal Sentinel.

“I’m just happy that God gave me the opportunity to help many families own their own home. It is their first home in a new country. It’s a big investment, but I know it’s the best thing for them.”

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