Affordable housing projects advancing in Detroit

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city will gain or retain nearly 300 affordable housing units through the latest round of low-income tax credit funding from the state, officials announced Monday.

Michigan State Housing and Development Authority has awarded five developments in the city Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) awards. 

"We have made a commitment from day one that nobody is going to be pushed out of Detroit in order to bring new people into the city," Mayor Mike Duggan said during a press conference Monday. "There is plenty of room in the city for everybody."

Brush Watson will bring 310 units to Brush Park, including 163 affordable units

The awards will create or preserve 282 units of affordable housing for residents earning $16,500 to $44,000 per year. Of the units, 125 will be preserved and 157 newly built across the five projects that represent $122.9 million investment.

 The developments are:

  • Brush Watson in the historic Brush Park Neighborhood. American Community Developers Inc. is developing the project which will bring 310 housing units, including 163 affordable units. The mixed-use, mixed-income project will be three buildings and include 8,000 square feet of commercial space along Brush Street. 
  • Jim Holley Residences at 9001 Woodward Ave. The 60 units at the Jim Holley Residences will all be affordable. The $17.8 million project will also feature 5,000 square feet of commercial space. Construction is set to begin this spring.
  • Left Field at the former Tiger Stadium site. American Community Developers Inc. is developing Left Field. The first phase includes 60 units with 48 set aside as affordable housing ranging from 30 to 80 percent average median income. Rental assistance will be available for some units. Work is set to begin in summer 2021.
  • Midtown Square at 93 Seward in New Center. John Stanley and Develop Detroit are undertaking the $18.5 million redevelopment of Midtown Square, a historic apartment building.  The 73 units will remain affordable.
  • Friendship Meadows II at 1003 Leland St. Robert Beale is conducting the $6.6 million redevelopment of the senior-housing complex in the city's Forest Park neighborhood. All of the 52 units will remain affordable.

Chad Benson, MSHDA acting director of development, said the five projects had the characteristics the agency was looking for.

"Such as being mixed-income housing... in very strategic areas of the city and also close to the types of amenities that frankly all residents, but affordable housing residents, definitely need like grocery stores and pharmacies, doctors offices, so on in proximity to transportation," Benson said. "We really think these developments are great representations of that."

Rev. Jim Holley said there are other amenities in the works near the Jim Holley Residences, which sits about a block from his church, Little Rock Baptist Church. Those include a new restaurant and a daycare.

"So much is happening," he said. "I want to make sure that Detroiters stay in Detroit."

Jim Holley Residences to be constructed at 9001 Woodward Ave.

Monday's announcement comes three weeks after Duggan announced with nonprofit and banking leaders the launch of the Detroit Housing for the Future Fund, a nearly $50 million fund with the goal to create affordable housing in Detroit.

To date 4,000 affordable housing units the city has already helped renew low-income housing subsidies, officials said.

"This is what we're going to keep doing," Duggan said. "We have room for everybody if we stay ahead of this."

Rents for a one-bedroom unit would range from $412 a month for a person making $16,500 annually, which represents 30% the average median income to $1,100 a month for a person making $44,000, which is 80 percent the average median income.

The largest project of the bunch — Brush Watson — kicked off two years ago with a groundbreaking for 180 units. The project has since grown to 310 units with the addition of more affordable housing units, said Mike Essian, vice president of American Community Developers.

Long gone are the days where HUD would put up a building and give it a Section 8 contract, said Michael Polsinelli, field office director of the Detroit Field Office for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The focus now is mixed income.

"You could almost drive around and see them, ugly mid-rise squat brick building that was 100% Section development where these folks were located," he said. "And HUD learned that that's not the right way to do it. What we look for now when we provide any type of subsidy or fund is quality mixed-income affordable housing that you can drive by and you wouldn't even be able to tell if it had some Section 8 vouchers or units at the development. You should not be able to differentiate between what was once HUD housing and what is market rate housing."

Mona Ross Gardner has been a resident of Brush Park for 30 years. When she started a project to turn 234 Winder into a bed and breakfast, the area had abandoned mansions, lots of vacant land and homeless people.

"The neighborhood was in pretty bad shape," she said. "Totally desolated. And to see now what I saw then it's like a whole new world. It's totally different."

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN