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Renderings for Dwelling Place’s 2080 Union housing project, which aims to make home ownership more attainable for low-income families. Renderings for Dwelling Place’s 2080 Union housing project, which aims to make home ownership more attainable for low-income families. COURTESY OF DESTIGTER ARCHITECTURE LLC

Dwelling Place set to break ground on 42-unit community land trust housing project

BY Wednesday, January 11, 2023 02:31pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Nonprofit housing developer Dwelling Place plans to break ground this spring on a years-long project to build 42 homes in Grand Rapids’ Garfield Park Neighborhood. 

At least half of the homes constructed at 2080 Union Ave. SE will be sold under a community land trust model. This will allow buyers to obtain a mortgage for about 75 percent of their home’s value, and preserve the affordability of the homes on a long-term basis. If more philanthropic support comes through for the development, additional units will be sold under the land trust model, said Dwelling Place CEO Jeremy DeRoo. 

“We still have about ($500,000) of fundraising we’re hoping we can do to expand the economic diversity in the development,” DeRoo said. “If interest rates drop over the next 12 months, that will also expand the range of purchase power as well.”

The 2080 Union project should break ground sometime this spring with the first homes completed before the end of 2023, DeRoo said. Nonprofit leaders expect to construct about three homes per month after that until the project is complete, he said.

Dwelling Place typically develops rental units to serve lower income families, but the organization recognized the need for home ownership, leading to a community land trust model to allow for more affordable home ownership, DeRoo said. 

“West Michigan has always been a place where home ownership was within a plan, not just a dream for people,” DeRoo said. “Over the last five years or so, as property values have significantly increased, that dream has become inaccessible for more and more people. Historically, the market here has provided houses at prices that low-to-moderate income families could afford, but that’s not happening anymore. Even median income earning families can not afford homes right now.”

An application pool will be opened where people can apply to buy condominium units in the project once they are completed. Selection criteria will be geared toward people who are already living in the area or that have a connection to the neighborhood, DeRoo said.

About 700 people have expressed interest in purchasing housing in the project, DeRoo said.

The project received some pushback from surrounding residents who expressed concerns during city planning meetings in 2021. Most of the detractors said they were worried about increased traffic in the area and were concerned that the development would be constructed poorly to achieve affordability. 

Grand Rapids-based Destigter Architecture LLC designed the project, and has “done a fantastic job” of working with nearby residents and making sure the project is designed so it fits in with the surrounding community, DeRoo said. 

The flow of the neighborhood is designed to have connectivity throughout, with a shared greenspace for residents. The units will be about 1,100 square feet with single- and two-story designs. The community land trust units will serve low- and moderate-income families. All of the homes will be sold to families in the 80-110 percent area median income range, DeRoo said.

Pinnacle Construction Group is the general contractor for the project, and has been working diligently over the years to make sure this is achieved in a way that is still financially feasible, DeRoo added.

“This project has been in the works for three or four years now. We did not expect to have to seek $2.5 million of gap financing from the state, but with the housing market and high cost of construction, it was necessary,” DeRoo said.

Dwelling Place was one of four West Michigan housing organizations that received funding from the state’s Missing Middle Housing Program. The funding round was announced in December 2022 to help Michigan families put down roots in their communities, and is funded by $50 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

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