Benzie County is Home to the Latest Affordable Housing Project

"We've been looking forward to it for a long time. It’s all come together." - Bill Ward, Honor Village Council

It’s the latest effort to provide affordable housing, and this time the effort is focused on Benzie County. Construction crews are getting to work on the latest affordable housing project, and this one is being developed – and built – by a nonprofit group. Homestretch Honor

The affordable housing crisis is nothing new. In fact it’s why HomeStretch was created as a nonprofit housing corporation more than 20 years ago. Now comes the latest effort to supply affordable housing – this time in the Village of Honor. HomeStretch Executive Director Jon Stimson says, “We’re installing eight apartments. Two stories, two bedroom townhouse-style apartments. And we can house up to 36 people maximum.”

Michelle Thompson is with the Benzie Land Bank Authority and is the Benzie County Treasurer. She says, “It did fulfill one of the problems that Benzie County has been facing for a long time. And that is affordable housing.”  The Benzie Land Bank Authority has been the owner of this vacant land. They’re happy to see it finally put to good use. “The Land Bank took responsibility in 2014 and we’ve been seeking development of it ever since.

“Properties within the Village of Honor are very viable. They are within walking distance to banks and insurance companies and doctor’s offices and grocery stores. And the church and the post office, and everything is walkable,” Thompson says.

The project from HomeStretch should be available for occupancy by the fall of next year. Bill Ward with the Honor Village Council says, “Not only is it a matter of housing, it helps support local businesses. Because people work at the businesses, don’t have a place to live or that they can afford to live. Yet as more people come here more services are needed. It’s kind of a Catch-22.”

Stimson adds, “Our market study has probably 900 units needed in the Benzie County area. The Village of Honor, the demand was around 16 units.” A small dent overall, but it means they meet half of the demand for more affordable housing in Honor with a single project.”

Honor Housing HomestretchHomeStretch recognizes that many who live in the new development may work out of town. “Our market study recognized that we are going to have some of that. People who work in Traverse City will reside in Benzie County. That’s already happening. There’s already a commute time for a lot of folks. We’re going to be able to grow the community. Even though somebody’s driving out of town they’re going to have services in the community they’re going to use. So it’s a win for the community. Now if somebody decides to reside and work in Benzie County that’s all the better.

“Most of the people we cater to will have a job, will have income. They just can’t afford the rent or anyplace in the Grand Traverse Area or Benzie County,” Stimson says. Housing vouchers will be available through the Traverse City Housing Commission for rental assistance. Units will be available on a sliding scale depending on the household size and income. Stimson says there are guidelines, but as a general rule, qualifications include tenants who earn 30 %to 80% of the area median income. That’s a range of $24,000 – $64,000 per year depending on the household size and the number of wage earners applying.

“We do have the lower end and the upper end of the spectrum. For a small development it’s probably important we have that blend.” He adds, “It’s significant in the fact that we’re actually doing something. In a community that’s lacking housing, but also lacks a lot of facilities. Municipal water, sewer system. You don’t get projects of any size in a smaller community. So that’s why this is important.”

HomeStretch serves as the developer – and the general contractors for the project. “We’re not having to go out and source a for-profit contractor. We actually contract the work ourselves. And take a lower profit or lower fee. And basically we’re covering our expenses at that point.”

Thompson says, “Hopefully we find another property here or there in Benzie County that they can do the same thing with over and over again.”

For information about HomeStretch and income qualifications, Click Here.