Kalamazoo County Housing Millage portal opens for creative new solutions

This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's series on solutions to affordable housing and housing the unhoused. It is made possible by a coalition of funders including the City of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, the ENNA Foundation, and LISC.

KALAMAZOO, MI – Kalamazoo County’s online portal is now available for any housing developer or nonprofit organization that wants to seek funding support from the county or the city.
The portal has been available by Kalamazoo County since December of 2021 for developers of projects that want funding through the county’s new housing millage. The portal will now be available to collate proposals for funding from other area sources. The projects will be vetted by members of the city’s community development and housing staff.
“The City of Kalamazoo has millions of dollars and they don’t have a portal and they don’t have a way,” to accept requests, says Kalamazoo County Housing Director Mary Balkema. “That is not helpful for (the county) and other organizations that have money to help address the area’s acute need for affordable housing.”
Expanding the use of the portal could help the City of Kalamazoo increase the number of projects under consideration so that they can utilize some of the federal funding available through the American Rescue Plan. Balkema says the city has millions of federal dollars that it has to obligate by 2024 and spend by 2026.
“So everyone can now apply through the county portal,” Balkema says, “and you might not get county millage dollars. You might get ARPA from the city or some other pot, such as the Kalamazoo Foundation for Excellence because they also have money that needs to be spent down.”
The county has not yet completed the millage collection process for 2022. It expects a similar amount to some $6.7 million that was collected from the 2021 tax year. That money was allocated to housing development and supportive services for multifamily, single-family, creative projects, and housing rehabilitation. The county reported that the grants, loans, and tax breaks helped support about $100 million in area projects.
This year’s allocations are expected to focus on multi-family and single-family home development, as well as housing rehabilitation, Balkema says. And she says developers will have to be creative to come up with projects that address the need for more affordable housing. Construction costs have become a high hurdle. She cited homes that nonprofit organizations are trying to build for the past few years in Kalamazoo’s Northside Neighborhood, as an example. Construction of a 1,400-square-foot single-family house was estimated at $700 a square foot.
Although she says progress is being made to provide new housing, “The quotes we’re getting back for the development of single-family homes are high.”

She says the Northside Association for Community Development recently took bids for the development of a 1,400-square-foot, single-family home on the Northside “and the bid came back at $500,0000 for one home. You can’t do anything to scale. … There’s nothing cheap.”
In the meantime, John Taylor, chairman of the Kalamazoo Board of Commissioners, said in a prepared statement issued last week, “It is estimated that 7,750 new housing units are needed to appropriately house the new households forming or looking to locate in the county.”
Speaking about requests for funding from the county housing millage, Taylor said, “We need creativity, innovation, private equity, tax credits, and philanthropy now more than ever, and we are looking forward to our partners submitting proposals so the Board of Commissioners can evaluate the projects and award funding early in 2023.”
Access to the County AmpliFund portal, which provides funding opportunities and applications, will be open until Feb. 17 and is available at the following links:
Rehab of Single-Family House

Single-Family New Housing

Multi-Family Housing

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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.