Online portal is open for new housing projects in Kalamazoo County

With the county's population growing 5 percent since 2011 and housing construction lagging, the need for new affordable housing is estimated to be at 7,750 units.
Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's series on affordable housing solutions and homelessness. It is made possible by a coalition of funders including the City of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, the ENNA Foundation and the Kalamazoo County Land Bank.

KALAMAZOO COUNTY — The online application portal for developers and nonprofit organizations who are planning affordable housing projects opened on Dec. 1, 2023 and will take submissions until Jan. 31, 2024.

But authorities will have to do some careful planning to accommodate the many requests they may get for a share of some  $3.5 million they expect to have available for projects with funds raised through Kalamazoo County’s 3-year-old “Homes for All” Housing Millage.

“There’s tons of interest,” says Kalamazoo County Housing Director Mary Balkema. “It’s going to be way oversubscribed. We have way more interest than money.”

During each of its first two years, the millage generated about $8 million. Ongoing commitments from projects that started in years one and two are expected to leave the housing fund with about $3.5 million available for new projects this year. 

A parking lot in the 500 block of South Rose Street into a 64-unit senior housing facility.Interesting projects are being planned nonetheless in different parts of the county, Balkema says. Some are already taking shape with money the county provided last year and expects to continue to fund during the coming year. They include Rose Place Senior Living, a 64-unit residential development for people age 55 or older. Construction started on the project in 2022 in the 500 block of South Rose Street.
Developers Garrett Seybert, of Mt. Pleasant-based PS Equities Inc., Jon Durham, of Kalamazoo-based NoMi Developers, and others, working as 530 Rose LDHA-LP, are converting what had long been a parking lot at 530 S. Rose St. into residential housing for seniors. The partnership has received low-income tax credits for the $14 million project, which is expected to be a five-story, affordable residential development that will have four residential floors with parking on the ground level. 

Durham and Seybert were the developers of the Harrison Circle Apartments, an affordable, residential/commercial development that opened in 2021 in the Rivers Edge area, just east of downtown Kalamazoo. Sixty-four of its 80 apartments are leased to income-qualified individuals.
“We’re really excited about it,” Balkema has said about the South Rose Street effort to develop affordable senior housing. “As we have a growing aging population, there is a huge demand for affordable senior housing.”
The project has received about $1.3 million from the housing millage and was awarded $1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act support.

With regard to accommodating new projects that come through its funding portal, Balkema says it will be a challenge for the board to determine how to fund projects in 2024. 

Rose Place Senior Living is one of several affordable housing projects that is receiving funding through Kalamazoo County’s 3-year-old Housing Millage.Money from the county’s “Home for All” millage (which was approved by Kalamazoo County voters in 2020) is intended to fill the gaps that allow beneficial housing projects to move forward. The overall mission, according to the county is to “address the shortage of affordable housing in our community.” That is a problem that the county says needs to be addressed because it “has limited economic growth, prevented upward mobility, and hindered equity.”

During its first two years, the new millage has provided more than $13.4 million to housing development and supportive services, helping to support projects with a total value of more than $150 million, according to the county. Those included home rehabilitation work in Kalamazoo, Portage, and Galesburg; the construction of two new single-family homes in the city of Portage; and the conversion of the old Knights Inn Motel on South Westnedge Avenue into a 60-unit facility for the unhoused.
”We believe everyone deserves access to safe and affordable housing,” John Taylor, president of the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners, stated in a release announcing the opening of the housing project portal.

“With the county's population growing 5 percent since 2011 and housing construction lagging, the need for new affordable housing is estimated to be at 7,750 units. We are calling for creativity, innovation, private equity, tax credits, and philanthropy to partner with us to solve this crisis. We eagerly anticipate proposals from our partners, enabling the Board of Commissioners to evaluate projects and allocate funding in early 2024.”

Heavy machinery is helping to convert a former parking lot in the 500 block of South Rose Street into a 64-unit senior housing facility.Those interested in accessing the development funding portal to apply for funding opportunities may do so by clicking on the links below:
• Rehab of Single Family:
Click here

• Single Family New Housing:
Click here

• Multi Family Housing:
Click here

• Creative Projects:
Click here
• Supportive Services:
Click here
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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.