State backs collaborative approach to affordable housing project

Years of planning have brought together the city of Holland, two nonprofits, a church and a native American tribe to create a much-needed affordable housing project.

The plan took a major step forward last week when it was awarded Low-Income Housing Tax Credits by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. 

The project, a joint venture between nonprofits Dwelling Place and Community Action House in Holland and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, will bring 52 affordable housing units to Holland’s south side. Groundbreaking is anticipated for this winter, with construction lasting 12 to 14 months.

The development will be on properties owned by Community Action House, the city of Holland, and Hope Church. It will include a three-story apartment building at the Kollen Park site on Kollen Park Drive and a two-story apartment building at the Hope site on 10th street. 

‘Creating opportunities’

The tax credits are not just a funding mechanism but also a catalyst for community transformation, explains Jeremy DeRoo, CEO of Dwelling Place, which is based in Grand Rapids. 

“We're building more than homes; we're creating opportunities for residents to thrive in a vibrant, diverse neighborhood,” DeRoo says. “We are thrilled to move forward with this project that will provide 52 high-quality, sustainable, and inclusive housing units for low-income families and individuals in Holland. This development is a crucial step towards meeting our community's housing needs." 

A rendering of the three-story apartment building planned for Kollen Park Drive.

Early on, Hope Church and Community Action House separately approached Dwelling Place with the desire to increase affordable housing in Holland. Community Action House, a community-founded nonprofit that has operated in Holland since 1969, helps low-income families build stability through healthy food access, financial empowerment, resource navigation services, and case management. It has seen increased service numbers across its programs, providing support and case management services to more than 350 unhoused individuals last year. 

Scott Rumpsa, Community Action House CEO, says that as the nonprofit moved to a new Food Club & Opportunity Hub in 2021, his team was thinking about the best use of its former headquarters at 345 W. 14th St.

“With guidance from Housing Next and in collaboration with our partners at the city of Holland, we dreamed of using our parcel to catalyze a larger mixed-income, affordable housing development, to play our part in addressing the critical housing shortage that impacts so many of our neighbors,” Rumpsa says. “We’re incredibly grateful to see this project move forward, and for the health and stability it will make possible for families in our community.”

In 2022, the Ottawa County Housing Needs Assessment determined that about 4,385 rental units will be needed to accommodate growth in the area. 

The Kollen Park and Hope Apartments will cater to the diverse needs of the Holland community, offering access to schools, parks, and shopping areas. 

Long-held vision 

The Rev. Dr. Gordon S. Wiersma, pastor at Hope Church, says the project represents seven years of work to see through a vision for affordable housing for the community. 

“I am so grateful for the many committed people in my congregation that helped to accomplish this goal,” says Wiersma. “And as a congregation, we are very grateful for our partnerships with Community Action House, Dwelling Place, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and the city of Holland. This project reflects a genuine commitment to a thriving community that includes everyone.” 

A two-story apartment building will be constructed at the Hope site on 10th street. 

To secure the land, Community Action House and Dwelling Place collaborated with the city of Holland to acquire city-owned property adjacent to the Holland nonprofit’s former location on 14th street. The proposed development will create at least three permanent jobs for property management, maintenance, and janitorial duties as well as 132 temporary jobs.

“The city is very excited about this news, as it moves forward a continuing Council priority of providing more affordable housing in our community,” says Keith Van Beek, Holland city manager.

Tribe’s role has personal connection

Dwelling Place also partnered with Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, a federally recognized Native American Tribe based in Manistee. Through Little River Holdings and its subsidiaries, Little River Band aims to help provide increased access to affordable housing for Native American members and their descendants. The development will include 11 units set aside for members and/or descendants of tribal nations.

Eugene Magnuson, of Little River Holdings, says the project has a personal connection for him because his mother grew up in Holland. 

“As a young girl attending school, she would often walk through the park and across the grounds of Hope College on her way to class,” Magnuson says. “Being Anishinaabe (Native American) in a predominantly white neighborhood, my mother’s parents faced challenges such as being evicted, rent increases, or having their home sold out from under them, leading to frequent moves.

“Now, 92 years later, we are proud to collaborate with Dwelling Place to offer affordable, safe, and modern rental housing in the very neighborhood where my mother once lived and played. This partnership also presents a valuable opportunity for Little River Holdings to address a crucial need, such as affordable housing, for Native Americans and citizens of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in the southernmost city within the Little River Band’s nine-county service area.”
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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.