Flint, MI—From a small auditorium inside Coolidge Park Apartments—a former Flint elementary school turned apartment complex—Governor Gretchen Whitmer continued an ongoing press tour regarding her proposal to add $100 million in state investment to the Michigan Housing and Community Development Fund.

“Affordable, attainable housing is inextricably linked to the safety and well being of Michiganders,” she said. “It’s no surprise that housing challenges became more acute during the pandemic. But let’s be clear, they preceded the pandemic and it’s even more important than ever that we continue to work toward meeting those needs.”

Governor Whitmer went on to announce the state’s investment would work to “expand access to affordable, attainable housing” and thereby “close equity gaps and support redevelopment of vibrant communities.” She said the $100 million is expected to build or rehab homes for 2,000 Michigan families, create 1,600 jobs, and generate another $380 million in private investment.

Though the funds are not earmarked solely for Flint’s affordable housing needs, the announcement was personal for acting executive director for Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Gary Heidel.

“It’s good to be home,” said Heidel, a Flint native, before adding, “It’s good to see a bunch of Flinstones in the audience.” 

Heidel said he’s served under five governors so far, but this was the first time one did something like this. “It’s an incredible investment,” Heidel said. The money will help MSHDA both “increase production” and “preserve affordable housing” according to Heidel, but the timeline for the money to reach localities isn’t yet certain.

“The money does have to be appropriated by the legislature before it can be used,” he said. “Right now they’re finishing up the executive budget, so I’m expecting they’ll start debate in the next month or two.”

The exact equation MSHDA will use for this investment is yet to be determined, but Heidel said Michigan law requires that MSHDA distribute the funds based on “poverty and economic distress.”

Should that be the case, Genesee County has the 8th highest percent of people living in poverty in the state, and Flint is considered an “eligible distressed area” according to the MSHDA listing released last month. Even without that data, Glenn Wilson, the president and CEO of Communities First, Inc. had hope for future affordable housing projects in Flint.

“Since 2018, Flint has lost almost 2000 affordable housing units,” said Wilson, whose nonprofit has been a developer for 10 years and received daily calls from people looking for housing help during the pandemic. 

“We are so excited about the Michigan Housing and Community Development Fund, which will … finance various projects throughout the state of Michigan,” Wilson said, smiling. “And hopefully some of ours.”

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....

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