Justice Unhoused

Voters asked to fight homelessness with property tax increase

Millage request on November ballot is an expansion of project approved in 2015 that housed more than 500 families, officials say.

Kalamazoo County voters will decide Nov. 3 whether to expand a millage that is estimated to bring in more than $6 million a year over eight years to tackle the perennial homelessness crisis.

The funds would be used for services and assistance to help people remain housed as well as repair or build new housing options in the county.

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As NowKalamazoo discovered in our November 2019 deep dive into the county’s homelessness crisis, the county lacks an overall strategy to confront the crisis, leadership to execute the strategy, livable and affordable housing stock, and support services that are tailored to help residents address the underlying obstacles to obtaining or remaining in a home.

One targeted approach was a 2015 millage of .1 mills, which raised between $800,000 and $1 million a year specifically for the Kalamazoo County Housing Authority to help families with children in school to obtain or remain in housing.

More than 500 families were supported, but that millage expires next year.

“Now we’ll be able to expand that to families with all [ages] of children,” said Stephanie Hoffman, co-chair of the Housing For All campaign, as well as “single adults, our seniors, our vets, it will do a lot more.”

Two-thirds of the funding that would be raised from this millage would go toward expanding the housing stock in the county “with renovations, rehabs, and potentially new builds for multi-family and single family dwellings,” said Hoffman, who is also the executive director of shelter and low-cost apartment provider Open Doors Kalamazoo.

Voters are asked to approve a .75 mills proposal which will raise an estimated $6.375 million in its first year, according to the ballot language.

The Housing For All campaign, which is advocating voters approve the millage, said for example property owners will pay $75 a year on a property worth $100,000 in taxable value.

“Everybody’s property value goes up if we take care of some of the [housing] blight in the community,” said Chris Burns, a Portage City Council member and also co-chair of the campaign.

“If we design the program right, I think it’s possible we can unlock some additional state and federal dollars that can come into the community to make some of these big apartment projects happen,” Burns said. “I think we can be real efficient with this money, and I think we can really make a big impact on the availability of rental housing that people can actually afford for the jobs that are available in our county.”

Watch the NowKalamazoo interview with Homes For All campaign co-chairs Stephanie Hoffman and Chris Burns:

Listen to the NowKalamazoo interview with Homes For All campaign co-chairs Stephanie Hoffman and Chris Burns:

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