City Council continues discussions on affordable housing

Pat McGinnis

Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis presented a six-page report compiled by the Affordable Housing Task Force — a city committee dedicated to investigate housing availability in the Grand Haven area — at Monday’s City Council meeting.

The report, which was commented on and approved by the City Council, details issues with affordable housing in Grand Haven and provides 10 recommendations as talking points.

McGinnis will include the affordable housing proposal on the agenda for the Aug. 20 City Council meeting.

“There is more work to be done, but now we have something to start with,” Councilman Bob Monetza said.

Affordable housing is defined as housing for which the occupant pays no more than 30 percent of their income from gross housing costs, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We want to be a part of the solution — not a part of the problem,” McGinnis said. “Even talking about it is an important step.”

The issue, McGinnis said, is that housing rates in Ottawa County are rising faster than people’s ability to pay for housing.

“This is a problem not just in Grand Haven, it’s up and down the Lakeshore,” Mayor Geri McCaleb said. “It’s a very desirable place to live and a difficult thing to solve.”

City Council members stressed the need for affordable housing throughout the area, and recommended partnerships with Grand Haven Township and Spring Lake to find a solution.

In December 2017, the council approved a plan to study housing affordability in the community. It created the task force composed of multiple city officials to look at future steps including economic development, zoning ordinance amendments and residential development.

The task force created three basic 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 10 recommendations to come out of the study are as follows:

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

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

3. Support higher-density development in select districts;

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

5. Work with the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation to establish an Affordable Housing Community Fund to focus private resources;

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

7. Share plan and action steps with neighboring municipalities to create a regional effort;

8. Pursue a regional housing authority;

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

10. Zoning ordinance rewrite with specific attention to affordable housing best practices. 

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