Owner-occupied housing is focus of four new homes in Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood

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 Kalamazoo County, the city of Kalamazoo, the ENNA Foundation, and the Kalamazoo County Land Bank.

KALAMAZOO, MI — Four down. More to come.

The Northside Association for Community Development is setting up a process to get people into four new houses that are all but completed in Kalamazoo’s Northside Neighborhood.
Elizabeth Washington, the new executive director of the Northside Association for Community Development, hopes to have procedures in place for the sale of four new houses on west Ransom Street in Kalamazoo.“The houses are for people who live, work, play, and pray in this Northside neighborhood,” says Elizabeth Washington, executive director of NACD. She says they are also “for people who want to move back into the neighborhood, who maybe left because there weren’t houses available for them and their family.”

Each residence is a two-story, 1,700-square-foot house located on formerly vacant lots in the 400 block of West Ransom Street. Each has three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a basement, and a two-car detached garage. The target date for the houses to be totally completed is March 1, Washington says. Most of the construction work was completed last December by Adam Garland Construction.

Although she anticipates no shortage of people who will be interested, Washington says, “The next thing that has to happen is we need to sell them.”
Selling prices for the houses have not yet been set, however.
Four single-family homes now stand in the 400-block of West Ransom Street on parcels that were previously undeveloped.The houses were built at a total cost of about $1.3 million, including site excavation, environmental surveys, and other costs, Washington says. Bringing them to market has been a challenge as construction costs rose significantly during the past few years.
The houses are the first of some 21 homes the nonprofit community development organization has hoped to build in the neighborhood, located north of downtown Kalamazoo, and bordered by Douglas Avenue and the Kalamazoo River. It hopes to see 17 more homes built on vacant parcels on Church Street. The creation of more housing that is affordable is part of a long-term neighborhood plan called RIP-C (Residents Implementing Our Plan Collaborative).
To satisfy requirements for funding that NACD has received, or anticipates, one of the houses must be sold to an individual or family whose annual earnings are 30 percent or less of Kalamazoo County’s Area Median Income (AMI). Two must be sold to families whose income is between 60 and 80 percent of AMI. And one can be sold at full market value.
Each of the new NACD houses in the 400-block of West Ransom Street has three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Through May of 2022, 30 percent of AMI for a four-person household in Kalamazoo County was about $27,750, according to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Eighty percent of AMI was $69,250. Thirty percent of AMI for a one-person household was $18,200, according to MSHDA. Eighty percent of AMI for a one-person household was $48,500.
NACD purchased the Ransom Street property from Service Concepts of Kalamazoo in 2019. The nonprofit organization broke ground on the project in April of 2023. Each of the houses, which were designed by architectural and engineering firm Abonmarche Byce to be energy efficient, will be equipped with a microwave oven, a stove, a refrigerator, and a dishwasher.
Funding for the single-family housing project has come from such sources as the Stryker-Johnston Foundation, the Kalamazoo County Housing Millage, and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. 

NACD also anticipates it will receive federal funding earmarked to help create affordable single-family homes and establish a neighborhood-based training center.
Each of the new NACD houses in the 400-block of West Ransom Street has three bedrooms and two bathrooms.Washington suggests that those interested in purchasing one of the houses, contact NACD. The organization is creating a list of those interested and will have open meeting sessions in mid-March to provide more details on what is involved.
“I would also encourage people to begin looking and shopping around for a lender so they can be pre-approved (for a mortgage),” Washington says. “Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services is an expert at helping people navigate home-buying.”
She says they have counselors to walk home-buyers through the necessary steps. And she says she wants prospective buyers to be successful.
“I want people to understand property taxes, about home maintenance, and all the details of home ownership,” she says. “I want people to fully understand their investment.”
Establishing a process to select buyers for this and future housing projects is among many things Washington has undertaken since being named executive director of the 43-year-old Northside Association for Community Development. She was named executive director of NACD in December, assuming a role that was held by Mattie Jordan-Woods for more than 36 years. 

Each of the new NACD houses in the 400-block of West Ransom Street has three bedrooms and two bathrooms.Jordan-Woods retired from the leadership role at the end of 2023 but continues to serve as chairperson of the Northside Cultural Business Group. She is credited with bringing millions of dollars in development to the Northside Neighborhood during her tenure – including the rehabilitation of dozens of homes and the development of the neighborhood’s only supermarket, Park Street Market.

 Jordan-Woods has said that the Northside was devastated by mortgage foreclosures and a dramatic drop in owner-occupied properties during the U.S. economic recession from 2008 to 2010. During that time the neighborhood went from 51 percent owner-occupied homes to about 35 percent.
Washington acknowledges the need for more owner-occupied housing, saying adequate and affordable housing is a key to better health and living. She has worked in various leadership roles in Kalamazoo, including work with Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation and as a member of the Kalamazoo College Board of Trustees. From 2015 until the end of 2022, she was vice president of Community Health, Equity and Inclusion at Bronson Healthcare.
Born and raised in Kalamazoo, she is a 1994 graduate of Kalamazoo College, graduating with degrees in Human Resources and Relations, and a secondary certificate in Social Studies and English. She worked for 18 years as a teacher in the Niles, Holland, and Kalamazoo public school systems.
As lead of a 2019 community health needs assessment for Bronson Healthcare in Calhoun, Van Buren, and Kalamazoo counties, Washington says she learned that along with jobs, career pathways, and opportunities for economic growth, housing was among the things people said they need to be healthy. All of those things are social influencers on health.
“What I learned is that those factors are seriously impacting people’s health,” Washington says. For lack of those things, she says, “You can go from this census tract (the Northside neighborhood) to, let’s say the Winchell Neighborhood, and there’s at least a 10-year difference in life expectancy.”

Each of the four new houses in the 400-block of West Ransom Street, has a two-car detached garage. 
She wants to see things improve for the Northside.
What’s next in terms of building?
“The goal is to continue building more homes in the neighborhood,” Washington says. And she says NACD has land parcels “available to us on Church Street that we can purchase from the Kalamazoo County Land Bank.” But more planning, funding, and neighborhood participation is necessary before the association announces other projects, she says.
In the meantime, she praises investments that others are making to create housing in the neighborhood. She mentions a senior housing project being spearheaded by Mt. Zion Baptist Church, an affordable housing project that is planned by Galilee Baptist Church, a recently opened 12-unit apartment complex that was recently opened by local developer Jamauri Bogan, and ongoing efforts by Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services.
“There are investments that are happening in housing on the Northside,” Washington says. “It’s not just NACD. Thank goodness because we couldn’t meet that need.”
Regarding the four new houses, she says, “We’ve learned a lot about how to build, and we could keep using that model, perhaps with some tweaks, to continue to build on the other lots.”
Among the reasons people should be excited about the NACD’s four new houses, she says, is that good housing is hard to find.
“Houses to buy that are affordable in Kalamazoo are hard to find,” Washington says. “The market for a three-bedroom house where you don’t have to put in more money than what you’re buying it for is hard to find in Kalamazoo.”
Aside from that, she says, “They’re beautiful. I want to see people in them.”

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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.