Guest Column

Housing Next sees advances throughout Ottawa County

January 3, 2020
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Two years ago, eight organizations came together to begin to implement solutions to our local housing affordability challenges that were surfacing through Greater Ottawa County United Way stakeholder discussions. We each made a conscious choice to work together because of the magnitude of the challenge and the reality that all sectors have a role to play if we are going to meaningfully address housing affordability.

As we reflect on the progress and accomplishments we’ve achieved through our second year, we celebrate those who are making decisions to advance our community’s efforts to make housing more affordable for all.

  • Since Housing Next was formally established, four of Ottawa County’s most populated communities (cities of Holland, Grand Haven and Hudsonville, and Grand Haven Charter Township) each have undertaken major overhauls of their local zoning codes. Several other communities are in the process of evaluating specific standards that limit housing supply and considering changes. This is critical work necessary before any new building at a cost-effective scale can be done.

  • Good Samaritan Ministries started a nonprofit property management arm for affordable rental units, filling a significant “housing ecosystem” gap.

  • In early 2019, we released a countywide Housing Needs Assessment, which identified the overall need for housing at all price points across Ottawa County. The availability of market data has been immeasurably helpful when working to attract new developers to the county and seek out opportunity development sites with local communities.

  • In 2019, the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners chose to re-establish the County Housing Commission and appointed a new five-member board.

  • Since 2018, Housing Next has worked to support nearly a dozen individual development projects, which will create up to 2,000 new housing units at a range of price points across the county when completed. These projects are in various stages of planning and/or construction and include town homes, condominiums and apartment buildings.

  • Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity and Jubilee Ministries have combined their efforts on several projects across the Holland/Zeeland area in a way that demonstrates extraordinary creativity and innovation. Both organizations are trying new models and scaling up the number of units they are producing each year. The leadership at Habitat and Jubilee should be commended for their steadfast commitment to the mission and their adaptability to a changing marketplace.

This is amazing progress in just a couple of short years. It is important to pause to celebrate these significant steps forward. 

At the same time, we won’t stop here. Many of our friends, coworkers and neighbors struggle to make ends meet, and we must continue to work to make more progress for our community. 

We are energized and grateful for the many voices championing this cause and for those taking actions, big and small, to help make housing more affordable for all. Together, let’s stay committed to making the list of accomplishments twice as long in the years to come.

We encourage you to visit the Housing Next website for more information and conversation on those topics, and our full 2019 Summary Report, at housingnext.org/about.

Mike Goorhouse and Hadley Streng are co-chairs of Housing Next, and Ryan Kilpatrick is executive director.

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