Flint, MI—The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) has launched a new program to spur the creation of attainable housing across the state.

The Missing Middle Housing Program was created through a $50 million allotment of Michigan’s American Rescue Plan Act funds and stands to help eligible Flint developers finance projects that rarely qualify for state-level monies. 

“What I think is so exciting is that MSHDA heard the issues right across the board,” said Juan Zuniga, Executive Director of the Flint branch of Local Initiatives Support Corporation. “They’ve heard the issues of what we’re needing to see in our communities to help them thrive, and it is access to a product that folks can afford, but then also what’s the potential for grant dollars that can help support that?”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the global and local supply chain, labor force, and life in general, developers have been struggling to build new housing, or even renovate existing housing, for what they can sell or lease it for afterward.

“There is a complex financial structure involved and it does—as in almost every development in Flint—cost more to build than we can sell them for,” Joe Martin, Director of Development for Uptown Reinvestment Group, told Flint Beat earlier this year.

And while “missing middle” can sometimes refer to housing types that fall between single family detached homes and mid-rise apartment buildings—think duplexes, triplexes, and townhomes—the focus of MSHDA’s new program is actually on encouraging the development of attainable housing, defined as affordable to individuals or families that make somewhere between 185 to 300 percent above the federal poverty line.

“We have a lot of programming in the state, in the country, and locally here that helps the low to moderate income [levels] up to 120 percent,” Zuniga said, noting the work of local nonprofit developers like Habitat for Humanity. “This is bridging that gap by taking it to up to 300 percent of the poverty guidelines.”

And, Zuniga said, helping to fund housing development for people who fall in that gap could mean much more than just new properties in Flint.

“We can get folks that are working here locally to be able to purchase a new home or rent a new home,” Zuniga said, adding that for now people may work in Flint but live in outlying communities with more available or affordable housing in areas of interest. “It keeps the tax base here in the city of Flint.”

The Missing Middle Housing Program applications launched on Sept. 19, 2022, and require that applicants hold nonprofit status and meet a 10-year compliance period within which the housing stock built or renovated remains within the attainable pricing/rent model. 

It also caps the amount any one developer can receive to $7.5 million and requires a certain percentage of funding to go toward developments in rural areas and developments of 12 units or less.

All of that, said Chad Benson, Director of Development for MSHDA, is by design.

“Our goal as an agency is to make sure that we are really touching all those areas of the state where there’s need,” Benson said. “And throughout the process [of creating this program], we just heard overwhelming need from throughout the state.”

While Flint is experiencing its own affordable and attainable housing shortage, the issue stems beyond the city or even Genesee County. 

Projections from the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity show the state faces an “acute” housing shortage within the next few years, with available owner units at less than half the expected owner moves in 2019, and available rentals at less than a third of expected renter moves in the same year.

“So yeah, we really did take the steps within the program to really kind of break it down from a regional level to make sure that every area throughout the state, every region, is going to be able to have the opportunity to access these resources, or at least a portion of the resources,” Benson said.

While Flint has multiple developers who qualify for Missing Middle Housing Program funding, it is too soon to tell which, if any, may take up the opportunity Benson mentioned. 

But, said Zuniga, even if Flint developers don’t apply, “it definitely opens the conversation” around the city’s need for missing middle housing stock and the funding necessary to create and sustain it.

Applications for the first round of Missing Middle funding are due by Dec. 30, 2022.

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....