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Published in Nonprofits
Rendering of new home planned near downtown Muskegon as part of Community enCompass’ Affordable Community Housing (EACH) program. Rendering of new home planned near downtown Muskegon as part of Community enCompass’ Affordable Community Housing (EACH) program. COURTESY RENDERING

Muskegon nonprofits launch new affordable housing program

BY JOSH SPANNING Sunday, February 28, 2021 01:40pm

MUSKEGON — Two Muskegon nonprofits are partnering on a new affordable housing pilot program calling for six new homes in the city just east of downtown. 

The program will target residents working in sectors that have proven crucial during the pandemic, such as manufacturing, food processing, health care and retail.

“I think if COVID has shown us anything, it’s that we need those folks,” said Kimi George, community development catalyst for Muskegon-based Community enCompass, which runs the new Affordable Community Housing (EACH) program. “In order for a neighborhood or a community to really be stable and diverse we need all kinds of people with all income levels, and we need a variety of different housing choices.”

The Muskegon City Commission in December unanimously approved the EACH pilot program, which will provide financing for affordable new homes just east of downtown for residents who make up to 80 percent of the area median income. 

The $570,000 project calls for three single-family homes in the first phase and two multi-family homes and a single-family home in the second phase. The first three homes will be at 180 Houston Ave., 1141 Jefferson St. and 1259 Sanford St.

City officials approved a development agreement and $250,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding for the project. Community enCompass will cover the remaining $320,000 to build and market the homes and be reimbursed first by proceeds from the home sales, followed by the city.

Program advocates say it will allow families to own assets and live in the community where they work.

The program specifically targets workers with families and who earn less than $51,000 a year.

“The affordable housing piece of it … is a tactic that helps specifically with affordable home ownership. It helps build assets and helps folks be able to become strong and stable neighbors that are working towards a more prosperous future,” George said. 

EnCompass has partnered with the Community Foundation for Muskegon County to help fund the project, which includes a $30,000 down payment investment pool as one way to help residents purchase homes. 

“This will hopefully make the homes that much more affordable and when they move in they are not house poor,” said Janelle Mair, vice president of community investment for the Community Foundation. “They still have the flexibility to pay for the other expenses that they need moving forward.”

In addition to the down payment assistance, the Community Foundation is also helping fund Program Related Investment (PRI) loans that eligible residents can use to help cover the purchase. 

“We use (that investment) to support efforts in the community that also further our strategic plan but where bank financing doesn’t make sense,” Mair said, referring to residents who might not qualify for a traditional bank loan or would face prohibitively high interest rates.

Once loan recipients pay it back, the funds are recycled and directed toward more projects. 

George maintains that the program’s financing options will positively affect not just the new homeowners, but also the local community and economy. 

“For one entity to take that hit — of course affordable housing wouldn’t be sustainable or attractive to anybody,” George said. “But when you spread that across the board and you have partners who really see the value of affordable housing and everybody’s willing to take a piece of that and see it not as a charity, but an investment in the community — that’s a powerful thing.”

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