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Grants awarded to address housing affordablility

Alex Doty • Dec 29, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Ottawa Housing Next received a Christmas gift that will help advance the program’s cause into the new year.

The program was awarded $20,000 grants from both the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area to help to address countywide housing needs.

“The funds are going to be used for the planning stage of the Ottawa Housing Next planning ... for affordable housing in Ottawa County,” said Lyn Raymond, Lakeshore Housing Alliance program coordinator. “We’ve been working on this for the last couple of years.”

The Greater Ottawa County United Way has led a community-wide conversation about a lack of affordable housing in the county during the past several years, and as a result of this process, the organization formed Ottawa Housing Next.

Ottawa Housing Next is a collective impact effort by leaders in the business, nonprofit and government sectors to create more affordable housing in the county. According to Raymond, the community has given its input, and six workgroups have been created to look at various housing topics.

“We’re really pleased with the results from the community, and input and comments from the community on how to make this a great place for everyone to live,” Raymond said.

The goal of the program is to find solutions to housing issues in the county using a community-wide approach instead of working from the top down, Raymond explained.

According to a recent United Way study, there are people in Ottawa County who struggle to find an affordable place to live. These folks are often forced to live beyond their means or commute a distance to work because they have to live outside the area.

According to the United Way’s study, about 35 percent of Ottawa County households struggle to afford housing, with that number varying around different parts of the county. Some communities are as low as 20 percent and others are as high as 47 percent. 

Six strategies to create more affordable housing options include: private/nonprofit partnerships, inclusionary zoning, housing trust fund, tax credits, housing case management and income supports. Raymond said they are moving toward implementing some of the six strategies, but noted that there is still plenty of work to be done.

“It’s going to be an ongoing effort that will require several years (to implement),” Raymond said. 

The grants received from the local community foundations will allow the United Way to continue facilitating the Ottawa Housing Next workgroups, which will allow them to keep prioritizing needs, identifying projects and taking actions toward creating more affordable housing options.

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