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New state program to allocate $17 million for housing in Northern Michigan

A new program from the state government could help increase the availability of housing in Northern Michigan.

The MI Neighborhood program will streamline the process of developers receiving grants for the construction of new units, public amenities or rehabilitation of older units.

“We are trying to flip how we fund projects upside down, really trying to reduce the barriers to accessing government funds,” said Amy Hovey, director of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

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The program will provide nearly $17 million for Northern Michigan projects. Local officials have made their specific housing needs known to state officials, who will have final approval over each of the grants.

“What we love about this program is it has been developed to respond to the regional housing plans throughout the state,” Hovey said. “So it’s going to look different in every single region. So if a region, perhaps in the rural areas, are really looking at doing rehab of existing housing, they could use their entire funds just to rehab existing housing. If they find their short of housing units and want to invest more in building, they could do that.”

The grants can reach up to $100,000 per unit, with developers being able to receive up to $2 million for multiple-unit projects.

Rehabilitated homes must target income levels at or below 120% of the area’s annual median income, while new unit grant recipients must target at least 20% of their units to low income residents.

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Warren Call, president and CEO of Traverse Connect, said that the tailored nature of the program will better benefit communities.

“If you think about beyond just Traverse City across Northern Michigan, I think that the opportunity to use some of this funding for rehabilitation of existing housing stock is also really helpful,” he said. “Because we do have housing stock that’s that’s older, that could be utilized and just needs to be rehabilitated. And that funding for that’s going to be helpful as we move forward.”

Call added that while he was happy about the program, more will need to be done.

“No program or initiative is going to be a silver bullet to solve this problem quickly. But it is a good start,” he said.

According MSHDA, the state is about 190,000 housing units short of where it needs to be. Advocates hope that this program will spur further action on housing programs across Michigan.

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