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Affordable Housing Alliance Provides Low-Income Rental Units

November 3, 2011

This is the eighth in a series of articles on agencies that participate in the Midland County Continuum of Care.

One way to combat homelessness is to build and maintain decent housing for people who otherwise are priced out of the market.

That’s the role The Affordable Housing Alliance of Midland County has chosen to play in the fight to keep people decently sheltered.

Formed as a non-profit in 1997 with seed money from local foundations, the Alliance has built and operates four housing developments with a total of 95 two and three bedroom townhouses.

Each two-story townhouse comes with washer and dryer, stove and refrigerator, garbage disposal, dishwasher, window coverings, central air, basement, and play area for children.

Rent is based on Midland Median income ($66,800 for family of four in 2009). A two-bedroom home at 50% of median income rents for $510 per month plus utilities. At 30% of median income the rent is $299. Most tenants fall in the 30 percent category with the remainder in the 40-50 percent group, according to W. Roger Mikusek, executive director of the Alliance.

Seventy-percent of funding for building the Alliance’s projects flows through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) by way of federal tax credits set up by the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Another ten to 15% is contributed by local foundations. The remaining ten to 15% comes from long term mortgages.

The Alliance is not assessed property taxes on its projects, but pays a percentage of rents in lieu of taxes through an arrangement referred to as PILOT (“payment in lieu of taxes”).

Potential renters must have a reasonable credit history, no police record, and may not smoke or keep pets in the rental units. Mikusek says the no smoking, no pets rule is strictly enforced along with a no-clutter, no-litter policy for the grounds around the townhouses. “We keep a sharp eye on our properties,” he said.

Two part-time maintenance workers and one part-time cleaning worker make sure standards are maintained.

Such diligence has not gone unnoticed. The Alliance’s Grove Street Commons property has won two Beautification Awards from the City of Midland’s Beautification Advisory Committee.

Asked whether the Housing Alliance competes for tenants with other local rental businesses, Mikusek said, “We’re not really competitors. The local rental market is very tight. Our relationship with the landlords is mostly good.”

He went on to say, “We could easily use another 50 to 60 housing units right now.”

Mikusek became involved with the Alliance, first as a board member, and then took on the part-time executive director job, having retired from a long career as a mortgage banker at Chemical Bank. “This is a way to give back,” he says.

From his office in the Strosacker Center at 220 W. Main St. in Midland he recalled a consciousness-raising experience from 40 years ago when his work took him to a trailer park in Midland County. “It was February. I saw a woman carrying a baby, stepping out of a trailer that had no door on it. There was just a rug hanging there to cover the opening.”

When asked about the situation, the woman told him that the landlord knew about it and promised to fix it, but had done nothing. In those days the Department of Social Services directly subsidized landlords. Thus the landlord received the subsidy regardless and had little incentive to fix anything or reduce the heating bill.

The Affordable Housing Alliance has come up with a far better way to address the housing needs of low income families, as demonstrated by its four properties, Grove Street Commons, Granite Club Acres, and Chippewassee Court I and II in Midland, and Coleman Apartments I and II in Coleman.

Inquiries may be directed to the the Alliance office at (989) 633-9910. Two clerical workers staff the office which is open Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Midland County Continuum of Care combines the efforts of 28 agencies to forestall homelessness by providing housing-related services to those who are homeless or living in substandard housing.

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