How a church’s vision is supporting affordable housing in Spring Lake

When Spring Lake Presbyterian Church decided to sell a parcel of vacant land, it was looking for an opportunity to make a difference in the neighborhood and the community by addressing the shortage of affordable housing. 

“We were trying to find that developer that had this shared mission with us,” said the Rev. Dan Anderson, who has been with the church at 760 E. Savidge St. in Spring Lake for nearly 31 years. “We didn't want to sell it to someone who would put something in here that wouldn't meet the needs of the larger community.”

The church found the perfect developer in Samaritas, a non-profit committed to building affordable housing across Michigan.

A groundbreaking for Samaritas of Spring Lake took place on Feb. 8. Samaritas of Spring Lake is a 53-unit affordable housing rental project at 734 E. Savidge St. in Spring Lake Township that will go up on two acres. It will sit next to the church’s playground.

The pastor says his church will invite the future residents to use the playground area, where a pavilion is located. It’s an outdoor gathering spot for the church.

“We have live bands, and we open it up to other organizations in the larger community coming and using our property,” said Anderson. “We just try to be good neighbors.”

‘Great opportunity’

Ottawa County Commissioner Roger Bergman, who took part in the Samaritas groundbreaking on Feb. 8, is a supporter of the project, which is in his district. 

“The use of this piece of property in this way is a really great opportunity not just for the community it will serve, but the community at large,” Bergman says.

Roger Bergman

A portion of Ottawa County’s $57 million in American Recovery Plan funds will be used for the project, he says.

The $16 million development will serve people whose income is between 30% and 80% of the area median income, which translates to annual incomes between $24,000 and $64,000, explains Joel R. Lautenbach, executive director of affordable living development for Samaritas.

Joel Lautenbach

“So that's really the people who are working in the local stores, the librarian, the teacher, people that are just like me who struggle to find affordable options for housing,” Lautenbach says. 

Most of the apartments will be one bedroom with high-quality finishes. The project’s construction partner is Pinnacle Construction Group, which is the architect, contractor and a minority owner of the project, along with Manistee-based Little River Development LLC, the real estate development arm of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. 

“Our construction partner does really good work,” Lautenbach says. “We just completed another project together in downtown Muskegon. This is our third project, so we're confident in its quality, and people really have a positive response.” 

Ideal location

The location in a waterfront community known for its high quality of life couldn’t be better, he adds.

“Spring Lake is beautiful,” says Lautenbach. “You’ve got the water, a walkable downtown, the amenities, the things that people need in life. When the Michigan state housing agency looks at projects, they want to find places that offer these things. So as a developer of housing, we are always looking for places that offer that mix of amenities, those quality-of-life elements.” 

A rendering of the Samaritas in Spring Lake project.

Samaritas is using the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program to finance the development that will take more than a year to construct. 

“There's a lot of communities throughout the state like Spring Lake and small areas throughout the state where housing is needed, as well as the very rural areas of the state,” says Chad Benson, director of development at the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. The state agency has worked with Samaritas on several affordable housing projects throughout the state. 

“It's great to have partners because these are complicated developments,” Benson says. Samaritas does a good job of bringing it all together to create a good, affordable housing product that serves the communities that it's located in. Samaritas is very mission-focused. In a lot of ways, their mission is aligned with our mission to create affordable housing for the residents who really need it.”

Photos by Shandra Martinez
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