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Building a Place to Call Home

The U.S. is facing a housing crisis. Record unaffordability, near-record housing shortages and major barriers to first-time homeownership are all shown in the State of the Nation’s Housing 2023 report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Regionally and locally, we are also facing this crisis. The Kent County Housing Needs Assessment shows that 35,000 units are needed in Kent County alone.

This critical housing shortage impacts every person at every price point, whether from an accessibility, affordability, or mobility perspective. Housing is the foundation for every quality-of-life measurement and is critical to attracting and retaining talent.

Housing Next is determined to make positive change in West Michigan, and Executive Director Brooke Oosterman is leading the charge.

Housing Next is a regional partnership with a mission to increase housing supply in Kent and Ottawa Counties. The organization collaborates with local governments, developers and nonprofits to advocate for crucial policy changes and move housing supply solutions forward.

“All people and all places need equitable housing choices at all price points,” Oosterman said. “We’ve heard over the last year and a half that housing is a huge barrier for many in our community. We know we can make a difference, and Housing Next is focused on identifying scalable solutions to the housing shortage.”

 

Key Strides Made in 2023

Oosterman was hired as Housing Next’s director of policy and communications in March 2022. Her promotion to executive director in July 2023 is a testament to her impactful leadership through the organization’s expansion of services into Kent County.

Over the last year, huge strides were made in gap financing, with both Ottawa and Kent Counties launching their revolving loan funds. This involved stakeholders who helped provide insight into parameters of the fund, execution, and approval of contracts with the local CFDI and collaboration to fill the pipeline.

In 2023, Housing Next was designated as the lead to create a regional housing plan for West Michigan as part of Michigan’s first Statewide Housing Partnership. With co-leads The Right Place, Inc. and Urban League of West Michigan, Housing Next brought stakeholders from across a 13-county region together to set priorities for housing solutions specific to West Michigan. This action plan was submitted to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA).

“With 13 counties, our regional housing partnership is the largest, and it is also incredibly geographically diverse,” Oosterman said. “I’m proud to say that we had engagement from all 13 counties. We have urban, rural, and suburban representatives involved in work groups, allowing us to look at the issue more holistically than assuming our recommendations will fit in every community.”

There were also huge wins in state legislation, providing yet another critical tool for residential development. Tax increment financing, or TIF, for residential development expands eligible uses by amending the Brownfield Redevelopment Financing Act to incentivize rental and homeowner housing projects that provide affordable housing units in their projects.

“I am excited to see real life demonstration projects come online as a result of the new tools available, and I look forward to showcasing best practices in the region,” Oosterman said.

“As we work to attract and retain great talent in West Michigan, business leaders can use their voices to support housing projects and policies and advance housing solutions,” Oosterman continued. “You can also financially support the work of Housing Next or invest in the local revolving loan funds to provide lower cost capital.”

Learn more about Housing Next at housingnext.org. Join us to help develop housing solutions from all angles

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