Kalamazoo County Board OKs another $2.6 million to build, renovate, support 11 more housing projects

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's series on solutions to homelessness and ways to increase affordable housing. It is made possible by a coalition of funders including the City of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Kalamazoo County Land Bank, and LISC.

Efforts to provide more needed housing in Kalamazoo County are continuing as members of the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners recently approved a total of $2.6 million in funding to support planned residential projects.
 
On Tuesday, April 5, 2022, the board voted to support 11 projects involving three new categories of proposed housing. When completed the projects approved should add about 115 new housing units, and another 30 existing properties would be rehabilitated.
 
“We’re approving four Single-Family Housing projects,” explained Mary Balkema, housing director for Kalamazoo County. “Then the next one is Opportunistic Creative projects. You can come in with anything under the sun that you are interested in. So we will be awarding funding under that category. And then the next category is Rehab Single-Family. So we’re awarding money under Rehab Single Family.”
 
Mary Balkema, Housing Director for Kalamazoo CountyProjects in the Single-Family Rehab category are to receive a total of about $1 million. Those in the Creative Opportunistic category are to receive $500,000. And those in the Single-Family Housing category are to receive about $1.1 million.
 
That funding is part of some $7.1 million generated during the first year of a new countywide property tax millage that was approved by Kalamazoo County voters in November of 2020 to support the creation of new housing. It is the second round of funding by the board through a millage that is expected to generate a similar amount of money during each of the next seven years.
 
On March 15, board members initially made $3 million in allocations to support eight multi-family housing projects. Balkema says there is a gap between what is needed and what is available at all levels of housing in the county, including a shortage in housing for seniors, “which is one of our fastest-growing populations.”
 
“We’re desperate for (housing) units,” said Balkema. “We have folks that are holding (Section 8 Housing) vouchers that can’t find a place to live. We have a number of people out there. … We need units. We’re about 6,000 units short on affordable housing. And this will begin to fill that.”
 
Five of the projects approved for funding on March 15, 2022 are expected to produce 481 new residential units. Their developers, who already have partial funding from other sources, asked for a total of $5.4 million. Balkema said, “We’re going to give them $3 million.” That will help the developers leverage another $94 million, she said. “So we’ll begin to fill that gap.”
 
Mattie Jordan-Woods, executive director of the Northside Association for Community Development, said the funding is “another step in ensuring that people who traditionally are not considered for housing -- that they have an opportunity to be homeowners.”
 
Entrepreneur Jamauri Bogan, left, and Margy Belchak, of Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity, were among representatives of housing projects to attend the April 5, 2022 meeting of the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners.“It’s huge,” Margy Belchak said of the impact the funding will have on Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity, which is known for helping people maintain, repair, and build homes. “As a nonprofit, we lose money at every step of our process. We are serving 30 to 60 percent AMI folks with homeownership.  So we are providing them an opportunity to purchase a home.”
 
 (Those are people whose household incomes compared to the area median income qualify them for help with housing. The Area Median Income for Kalamazoo County is about $79,000 for a family of four. It is about $55,300 for an individual. Thirty percent of the AMI for a family of four is about $23,700. For an individual, 30 percent of AMI equates to annual earnings of about $16,590. Sixty percent of  AMI for a family of four in Kalamazoo County is about $47,400. For an individual, it is about $33,180.).
 
Habitat sells homes to those individuals at below-market rates, said Belchek, who is Habitat’s director of development. “So if the home costs us $160,000 to build, we may only sell it for $115,000,” she said. “And that’s the gap between the sale price and the cost of the home.”
 
Belchak said that work “helps break people out of a cycle of poverty and get them on a path to intergenerational wealth.”
 
Of the projects approved Tuesday, she and county board members said they have high hopes.
 
The Single-Family Housing projects include:
 
• Funding to support the construction of a new house on Ransom Street for use by a family earning 30 percent or less of the Area Median Income. The house will be one of four that are being developed by the Northside Association for Community Development – It has been awarded $311,862 in millage funding.
 
• Funding to support the construction of two houses in the City of Portage at 130 Amos Drive and 7905 Oakland Drive for families at 80 percent of the Area Median Income. The houses are being developed by Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services – The project is to receive $300,000 in support from the millage.
 
• Funding to support the construction of four houses in Kalamazoo’s Eastside Neighborhood. The investment is expected to help Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity bridge the gap between the cost of construction and the cost of purchasing the homes by families earning 30 percent of the Area Median Income – The project is to receive $170,000.
 
• Funding to support the construction of five “tiny” homes on foundations and five “tiny” homes on wheels in the area of Ampersee Avenue and the Kalamazoo River in the City of Kalamazoo. The tiny homes, which typically are less than 500 square feet, will be developed by Playgrown, and are part of its Ampersee Home Start Initiative, a collaborative that includes housing organizers and The Institute of Public Scholarship – The project is to receive $318,138.
 
The Single-Family Rehabilitation projects include:
 
• Funding to allow Better World Builders to perform critical repairs on up to four houses in the City of Galesburg. The company intends to work on houses with an average value of about $118,000 – It is set to receive $75,000 in funding.
 
• Supplies, exterior doors, porch materials, and replacement windows for homes in the Ada Street corridor in Kalamazoo’s Northside Neighborhood. The work is being administered by Building Blocks of Kalamazoo$15,000 in funding.
 
• Funding to leverage a Community Development Block Grant allocation for housing rehabilitation in the City of Portage$221,465.
 
• Support for home repairs in the form of a grant/recoverable loan program for low- to moderate-income families in Kalamazoo Township through the Homeownership Preservation Partnership. The partnership is a collaboration of efforts by Kalamazoo LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corp.), Community Homeworks and Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services – $688,535.
 
The Opportunistic Creative projects include:
 
• The preservation of the Pinehurst Townhomes Project, a 96-unit development at 6740 Andover St. in Oshtemo Township. The project, administered by Full Circle Communities Inc., is intended to provide renovated space for families earning 30 to 60 percent of the Area Median Income – $400,000.
 
• The purchase of a four-unit house at 913 S. Westnedge Ave. to provide affordable/workforce rents for young people in need of assistance navigating life skills and employment. The project is being developed by Layla’s Cool Pops, a cookie, cupcakes, and treats bakery run by a teen and her mother – $100,000.
 
• Grant funding to help support the Mt. Zion Northside Housing Senior Project (with vouchers to be granted out of the 2023 millage). It is further support for the housing project for individuals earning less than 30 percent of the Area Median Income. Its construction also was approved for $740,000 in millage funding on March 15 -- $500,000.
 
Representatives of most of the projects thanked the County Board of Commissioners for investing in their efforts and thanked Balkema for her help in that process.
 
“It means everything,” Jamauri Bogan said of funding from the county for his 315 E. Frank St. housing project in Kalamazoo’s Northside Neighborhood. He said, “It shows that the vision that started two years ago has been realized. That it’s time to go. It’s time to build. It’s exciting.”
 
Bogan, a 26-year-old former Western Michigan University running back, is planning to convert a contaminated former manufacturing site at 315 E. Frank St. into a nine-unit, multi-family housing development with a mixture of affordable and market-rate units as well as an on-site daycare center. The $3.3 million project, which he hopes to have up and running in early 2023, was awarded a $400,000 grant from the new countywide property tax millage. He plans to break ground on the project this summer.
 
Bogan, who has been praised by WMU and others for his community service work, is now the executive director of Bogan Developments LLC, a real estate development focused on the needs of moderate- and low-income communities. On Tuesday, he thanked the County Board and said he hopes his project will help young people see what can be done when they have a vision.
 
“Kids can’t be what they can’t see,” he said, later explaining how a visit he made at age 12 to his mother’s job at a financial planning and insurance company in his hometown, Newark, N.J., piqued his interest in learning about the stock market and finance. That started him on a path to get a bachelor’s degree in financial planning and services and a master’s degree in business administration. He is using that education as he works in real estate.
 
Bogan plans to work with the Kalamazoo Youth Development Network to teach young people about real estate development.
 
“That same curiosity I had at 12, I want to trigger in somebody else,” he said. “If I can expose folks to these kinds of opportunities, what could they do? So, we’re going to see more Jamauri Bogans in this community.”
 
His was one of the eight Multi-Family Housing projects that were approved for funding on March 15, 2022. The others, including the amount of funding they are to receive, are:
 
•  A 9 percent tax credit deal for the development of senior housing at 522-530 S. Rose St. The Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners awarded $1,268,000. Some $2 million in funding was requested for the 530 Rose Limited Development Housing Association Limited Partnership, which is intended to help build 64 mixed-income, energy-efficient housing units for individuals age 55 or older. Using multiple funding sources, apartments in the $16.7 million project are expected to be affordable for those whose earnings start at 30 percent of the area median income. Working as PGJ Developers LLC, the sponsoring partners of the project are Phil Seyfert, Garrett Seyfert, and Jon Durham, who were partners in the development of the nearby Harrison Circle Apartments.

This is an artist’s rendering of the Young Kings & Queens Inc. project that is to be developed at 719 North Burdick St.• $173,000 to allow Young Kings & Queens Inc. to build BRIDGES Housing, a four-unit apartment building to provide housing for young adults with no previous renting experience. Project proponents had requested $1 million. The property, at 719 N. Burdick St., has been owned by Young Kings & Queens since 2017. The ground level will include headquarters space for Young Kings & Queens, a 7-year-old organization that works to empower and inspire at-risk youth “to live beyond the scopes of social norms.” The training includes a financial literacy program for young people from ages 16 to 24..
 
This is an artist rendering of the clubhouse area of the Abbey42 multi-family housing complex that is being planned for Pavilion Township.$936,000 to develop the 344-unit  Abbey42, multi-family housing at 5283 East O Ave. in Pavilion Township (in Kalamazoo County, bordering the City of Portage). The project, which has been in the works for Pavilion MFD LLC since 2018, has the potential to house up to 1,232 individuals, starting at rental rates affordable for those earning 30 percent of the area median income. Project proponents had requested $1.5 million. Among the project’s several partner organizations are Southwest Michigan First, and the Kalamazoo Community Foundation (which sold the land to be used for the development).
 
• A 4 percent tax credit deal with MDV Properties GP LLC to support the development of two 12-unit, affordable housing complexes to serve as permanent housing and provide support services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking at 3405 Duke St. The deal is valued at $500,000. The units are targeted to serve households whose median incomes are less than 30 percent of median incomes in Kalamazoo County. The project, which has a total cost of $5.4 million, is working with several partner organizations including Housing Resources Inc., and YWCA Kalamazoo.
 
$740,000 for the development of the Mt. Zion Northside Senior Housing Development, a 74-unit multifamily apartment community for seniors to be located on land acquired from the Kalamazoo County Land Bank and the Kalamazoo Brownfield Redevelopment Authority in the 100 block of East North Street. The money is intended to fill the gap between the $21.3 million total development cost and expected available sources. The development is a project of Hollander Development Corp., working with Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Kalamazoo and nine other partner organizations.
 
$576,000 to help fill gaps in funding for the development of Kalrecovery I & II, a $21.4 million project to provide housing for people recovering from substance abuse to be built on sites on Crosstown Parkway and Belford Street. Hollander Development Corp. is working with more than a dozen partners, including Integrated Services of Kalamazoo and the Michigan Association of Treatment Court Professionals, to leverage state and private equity financing for the rent- and income-restricted apartment units. They include 24 new one-bedroom housing units for single people in drug treatment court programs, 12 new two- and three-bedroom apartments for families where the head of household is in recovery, and 36 new two- and three-bedroom apartments for low-income families with children that work but earn less than 60 percent of the area median income.
 
With funding from the new countywide property tax mileage, the LlFT Foundation is working to convert the former Knights Inn motel on South Westnedge Avenue into Lodge House, a 60-unit affordable apartment community.$223,000 to help the conversion of the former Knight’s Inn at 1211 S. Westnedge Ave. into Lodge House, an affordable, 60-unit studio apartment community. The LIFT Foundation, which strives to build, preserve, operate and maintain housing for low-income people, purchased the motel in January of 2020 to provide emergency shelter to help Kalamazoo’s homeless population survive the winter cold. LIFT had requested $500,000. It is converting the property into more permanent housing in a project that has a total cost of about $7.5 million.
 
After working for more than a year to establish the application and review process for disseminating millage funding, Balkema said to get funding for the projects to the finish line is very exciting.
 
Among board members to thank Balkema for working to vet many projects during the first year of the millage funding, Commissioner Tracy Hall thanked her for spreading the funding in projects throughout the county.
 
Balkema said, “Our money is leveraging up several other sources. So these developments can start this year. And we need it so desperately. It’s the No 2 priority of this board. And so to fulfill a priority is very, very exciting.”
 
The construction of a new $90 million county justice center on Kalamazoo Avenue has been considered the board’s top construction priority.

 

Read more articles by Al Jones.

Al Jones is a freelance writer who has worked for many years as a reporter, editor, and columnist. He is the Project Editor for On the Ground Kalamazoo.