Kalamazoo Co. housing millage supporting 481 new units in first year

BY Sunday, June 19, 2022 06:03pm

An expanded countywide housing millage is already funding five multifamily developments in Kalamazoo County, where studies have identified a need for thousands of additional housing units.

The Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners in mid-March approved the projects to receive funding from the Homes for All millage, which voters approved in November 2020 for a period of eight years. 

Mary Balkema

The 2020 proposal significantly raised the county’s prior millage, bringing in $7.1 million in the first year compared to around $800,000 annually under the prior millage.

County commissioners allocated $3 million of the total millage revenue for five multifamily projects this year, with an additional $1.8 million for three projects pre-approved for 2023 funding. 

The projects approved for 2022 are expected to create 481 new housing units within the county and leverage more than $91 million in investments from other sources. 

Additionally, three creative housing projects received a total of $500,000 in grants, and four single-family home rehabilitation projects received a combined $1 million. 

Kalamazoo County Housing Director Mary Balkema said the board prioritized multifamily housing projects to maximize efficiency in the production of units. 

Balkema said the board worked mainly from anecdotal evidence of an urgent need for more housing units throughout the county. 

The board contracted with the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research for an updated countywide housing survey, which was completed in May and will provide more current data for decision making. The survey results, which show that affordable housing and more units ranked among residents’ top priorities for action on housing, are being incorporated into the long-term Kalamazoo County Housing Plan.

Here’s a look at the five projects selected to receive county millage funding:

Senior housing in the city

530 Rose Limited Dividend Housing Association L.P., a partnership between PS Equities and PGJ Development LLC, applied for $2 million to support a $16 million senior housing project at 530 Rose St. in the city of Kalamazoo that will create 64 new housing units. The board approved a loan of $1.27 million, the largest amount approved for a project in any category. 

Most of the Rose Street units are designed for mixed-income residents making below 60 percent of the Area Median Income. The remaining 13 units will be market rate. 

In addition to millage funding, the developers were awarded $1.03 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credits during the state’s 2021 funding round.

PS Equities previously developed the Harrison Circle Apartments, an $18 million affordable housing project in Kalamazoo that welcomed tenants in 2021.

Youth transitional housing

Young Kings and Queens Inc., a youth center in Kalamazoo, was awarded a $173,000 grant towards a construction project at 719 N. Burdick St. in the city’s Northside neighborhood. YKQ’s Building Relationships and Independence while Developing Economic Stability (BRIDGES) program helps young people facing housing barriers transition into independent living. To support the program, YKQ plans to construct a $2 million mixed-use building that will house four BRIDGES apartments and a commercial tenant. Although site plans are completed, construction has not yet begun. 

YKQ Founder and Executive Director Takisha Johnson said the forecasted cost of the project has increased by about $500,000 since January because of inflation and rising materials costs. YKQ has numerous grant applications in progress and continues to fundraise for the project.

“The only thing stopping us from building is the money,” Johnson said.  

Manufacturing to housing

Also in Northside, Bogan Developments LLC received $400,000 toward a project at 315 E. Frank St. that will produce nine units. Recent Western Michigan University graduate Jamauri Bogan launched Bogan Developments in 2020. In addition to funding from the county millage, the company’s East Frank Street project has been awarded a $500,000 Brownfield Redevelopment Grant by the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. 

Located at a former manufacturing site along railroad tracks, the development will include a mix of affordable and market-rate units, as well as an onsite child care center. The total cost of the project, which is scheduled to break ground this summer, is approximately $3.3 million.

Homes for the unhoused

The Lodge House, a LIFT Foundation project working to convert a former motel into affordable housing on South Westnedge Avenue in Kalamazoo’s Vine neighborhood, was awarded $223,000 toward the construction of 60 units expected to cost a total of $7.48 million. 

The project is also supported by the Stryker-Johnston Foundation, the city of Kalamazoo, the Foundation for Excellence, Local Initiatives Support Corp. and the Kalamazoo Community Foundation

With applications open since January and an already growing waitlist, the Lodge House plans to give priority to applicants experiencing homelessness. 

“What this means is that Lodge House will serve those who are living in a shelter, outdoors, in their vehicle or in a place unfit for human habitation,” said Lisa Willcutt, vice president of Lockhart Management and Consulting

Willcutt said LIFT secured a rare U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 8 project-based voucher that could deliver more than $5 million in local economic spinoff over its 20-year lifespan. Unlike tenant-based subsidies, project-based vouchers are attached to specific buildings instead of individual tenants. HUD last issued new project-based contracts in the 1980s, and they’re only available to new projects when a formerly contracted project opts out. 

“This is what LIFT has been able to do and it is not an easy task. That is why this project is completely different and allows for really affordable rents to be offered,” Willcutt said. 

HUD requires qualified residents in project-based units to pay 30 percent of monthly income — adjusted based on ability status and number of children — towards rent. HUD covers the difference between those payments and the rent rate. 

Large township project

Pavilion MFD LLC received $936,000 toward a $64 million project on East O Avenue in Pavilion Township that will create 344 new units of market-rate housing. The units will be a mixture of one-, two- and three-bedroom homes. More than 200 of the units will include enclosed garages. The development will also include a community center and pool.

Scott Knowlton, vice president and general counsel at Grand Haven-based Westwind Construction Inc., said he learned about the grant opportunity from news reports. Applying was a smooth but lengthy process, he added. 

The company is now working to grade the 60-acre site in preparation for construction. It expects to welcome occupants in late spring 2023. 

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