According to experts, Ottawa County has less than 20 percent of the affordable housing units that its population needs.
Jill Oosterbaan knows that firsthand. She’s been living in a wheelchair since she was a teenager and has had a difficult time finding suitable housing in the area.
Her needs? Affordability, wheelchair access and reliable care.
But that package doesn’t seem to exist locally, she says, especially one that allows animals — her service dog, Divvy, is a constant companion.
Lakeshore Housing Alliance Coordinator Lyn Raymond doesn’t disagree with Oosterbaan. As an expert in the field, she also knows there’s a mansion-size need for affordable housing locally.
Today, the Tribune presents both of their viewpoints — and both of their hopes that, through networking and brainstorming, they can lay the foundation for more housing choices in the near future.
CLICK HERE to read Part 1: "Disabled woman laments lack of housing."
Housing official agrees it is a problem
By Lyn Raymond
Unfortunately, the situation facing Jill Oosterbaan is not unique in Ottawa County.
There is not only a lack of housing for persons with disabilities, there is a lack of affordable housing all over the county for people earning a low to moderate income.
Fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Holland/Grand Haven Metropolitan Statistical Area is $664 a month. A single wage-earner would need to have an hourly wage of $12.78 in order to afford that one-bedroom apartment. This assumes the household is paying no more than 30 percent of gross monthly income for housing expenses (paying greater that 30 percent is generally considered “shelter overburden”).
Based on this widely accepted calculation, the affordable rent for a person receiving a Supplemental Security Income (SSI/Disability) benefit amount of approximately $680 per month would be $204. The greater the percentage spent on housing costs, the greater the risk for eviction, housing instability and/or homelessness.
The U.S. Census estimates that 9.3 percent of the population of Ottawa County is in some manner disabled. More than 1,500 of those are “self-care disabled,” or persons who have difficulty doing any of the activities such as dressing, bathing or getting around inside their home.
The estimated number of subsidized units in Ottawa County — those units that might be affordable for someone in Oosterbaan’s situation — is just a little over 1,000, and nearly half of those are designated for persons over age 55 and who are income-eligible.
The estimated total need for affordable units in Ottawa County is 4,000 to 6,000. This estimate is based on the number of households with incomes below poverty (6,590) and the number of households paying greater than 35 percent of income on housing (8,689).
This estimate does not account for families working in Ottawa County but living elsewhere due to housing costs or other economic factors, making it difficult for them to choose to live here.
The Lakeshore Housing Alliance is currently facilitating a task force designed to address the lack of affordable housing in Ottawa County. The task force includes representatives from both public and private sector; agencies, organizations and individuals from all parts of the county.
The goal of the Affordable Housing Task Force is to propose solutions to address the lack of safe, accessible and affordable housing, and to seek commitment from the community to accomplish that goal.
We are optimistic that the efforts of the task force will result in real solutions for people in housing need in Ottawa County.
For more information on how you can get involved, visit lakeshorehousingalliance.org.
Editors note: Lyn Raymond is the coordinator of the Lakeshore Housing Alliance — which is, in partnership with Greater Ottawa County United Way, a collaborative group of housing service providers, consumers and businesses dedicated to identifying needs, developing a vision, encouraging coordination of responses and advocating for safe, accessible, affordable housing and services in the Ottawa County area.