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City Council approves plan for affordable housing

Alexander Sinn • Aug 21, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Grand Haven City Council approved a plan Monday to expand affordable housing options in the area.

The council voted unanimously to pursue a plan to investigate and propose solutions to a lack of affordable housing in the community.

City Manager Pat McGinnis will add to the plan quarterly, with annual progress reports for the council to review.

McGinnis emphasized the importance of gathering community partners. Ottawa Housing Next, a local United Way initiative to improve access to housing, is on board with the plan.

“If we have others participating with us, we would include them as equal partners as we continue to hopefully make a positive difference in this area,” McGinnis said.

Mayor Geri McCaleb stressed the need for single-family homes in the area, and said many affordable homes have been turned into short-term rentals for the summer months.

“Those are single-family homes that are taken off the market,” she said. “I don’t want to extend them anywhere outside districts where they are already allowed, so they don’t cut into that housing stock.”

Councilmen Josh Brugger and Robert Monteza recommended the Affordable Housing Task Force not limit plans for affordable housing to specific neighborhoods.

“We’ve made mistakes in the past of identifying neighborhoods and saying, ‘These are the ones where the less-affordable housing should go,’” Brugger said. “I don’t want to see that. There needs to be some sort of disbursement throughout the city.”

According to the American Community Survey, income levels flattened from 2000 to 2012, while housing costs rose. The median monthly mortgage rose 19 percent, while the median monthly rent increased 22.5 percent. In this period, the median income increased 3.77 percent.

“Affordable” means housing in which the occupants pay no more than 30 percent of their income in gross housing costs.

The housing rate in Ottawa County is rising faster than residents’ ability to pay for it, according to city officials.

The city formed a plan in December 2017 to study affordable housing, creating the task force to look at economic development, Zoning Ordinance amendments and residential development.

The task force established three ideals:

— Everyone who works in Grand Haven should be able to live in Grand Haven.

— Grand Haven should have a variety of housing options.

— Those who live in Grand Haven should be able to remain in Grand Haven as they age.

The plan includes these 10 goals:

— Utilization of financial incentives/tools that can be accessed for city projects.

— Identify viable sites for high-density and/or mixed-use residential development to accommodate a diverse range of price points (public/private).

— Support higher-density development in select districts.

— Establish a public acquisition fund to assist in land assembly (potentially at the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation).

— Work with the community foundation to establish an Affordable Housing Community Fund to focus private resources.

— Pursue regional support for housing staff to continue to work on housing affordability initiatives.

— Share the plan and action steps with neighboring municipalities to create a regional effort.

— Pursue a regional housing authority.

— Coordinate location of higher-density residential development with readily available public and alternative transportation modes.

— Zoning Ordinance rewrite with specific attention to affordable housing best practices.

The task force also examined existing zoning ordinances and recommended solutions to expand affordable developments.

The plan will be executed through the city’s Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals to comply with the city’s Zoning Ordinance and Master Plan.

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