TRAVERSE CITY – The apartments the Traverse City Housing Commission plans to build on the same land as the Bay Area Transportation Authority’s new headquarters and garage appear to be a good deal for Elijah Toppen.
But he doesn’t know how long he can hold out in the face of a housing market he called “ridiculous” and a current situation that has him commuting between Mesick and Traverse City.
âRight now, during this particular summer season, I’m looking in some situations close to an hour and a half ride,â he said.
It will take some time to begin construction of the 210 apartments planned by TCHC, and Habitat for Humanity in the Grand Traverse area is planning 14 single-family homes nearby. Housing Commission executive director Tony Lentych said he had preliminary approval from Garfield Township for the multi-phase project with estimated rents starting at $ 680 per month, including utilities, and up to $ 820.
They are aimed at people earning 50 to 80% of the median income in the Grand Traverse County area, or between $ 28,000 and $ 45,000 per year, according to the documents.
Lentych said the rent would be based on 30 percent of a tenant’s take-home pay. But determining an exact number of apartments in a few years is tricky.
âIf it takes us two years to open, (the area’s median income) could go up or down,â he said. “Most likely, as you can imagine here, it will just go up.”
The tenants would have a bus transfer station a short walk away, which would allow them to not need to own a vehicle, Lentych said.
This station in turn would be directly connected to the plans for the BATA facility with $ 17 million in federal and state funds, having exceeded its current on the Cass and South Airport routes, as previously reported. Federal funds will cover the bus operator’s share of the project.
The plans also include two commercial spaces, one intended to house childcare and the other a cafe or similar business, Lentych said.
The housing commission will apply to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority for low-income housing tax credits in October, Lentych said. He hopes to find out by spring 2022, and next steps include taking possession of the property in September.
Costs for the entire site, including the bus transfer and commercial buildings, are estimated at $ 52 million, according to the documents.
He hopes the MSDHA takes note of the low rent and transit opportunities combined in one place.
âYou can’t get any closer to public transit than we do because it will be on our property,â he said.
Toppen said the rents offered seemed to him to be achievable. He was looking for a two bedroom apartment at $ 1,300 per month to share the cost with a roommate. Two factors made the search difficult, one being his dogs and the lack of pet-friendly places to rent.
Another is a hot housing market that has caused property values ââto skyrocket.
Promising leads for Toppen disappeared overnight during an ongoing search since March, he said. A landlord told him he had accepted a tenant’s offer for a 12-month rental deposit.
He is fortunate to have family to stay in the area with, he agreed, but the pinch has put service workers like him at a stalemate. He recalled meeting colleagues who slept in their cars for lack of a place to stay nearby.
These stories of people who have jobs but have no place they can afford other than their vehicles are all too common, said Wendy Irvin, CEO of Habitat for Humanity in the Grand region. Crosses.
The nonprofit that started a cluster of houses near the old Traverse City rail depot is working on 40 more, including 14 on land off LaFranier Road where BATA and TCHC plan to build. . These houses would be intended for families with a household income of 30 to 80 percent of the region’s median income.
Other Habitat for Humanity projects in the Grand Traverse area underway include six homes in Maple City and six of 14 planned for land near Bugai Road and M-72 in Elmwood Township, Irvin said. . These are due to be built this year, while 14 LaFranier Road will take at least two years to plan, authorize and raise funds.
Meanwhile, the organization is looking to serve anyone who calls, with around 650 contacts in 2019, a 175% increase from the previous year. These include referrals to other agencies or services, and perhaps the nonprofit organization’s own home repair services to keep people in their own homes. The association has a waiting list of 65 candidates for its services.
The Traverse City Housing Commission owns Riverview Terrace and Orchardview Townhomes, both of which are subsidized housing, and operates a Housing Choice Voucher program for tenants across the area, as previously reported.
Irvin described the LaFranier Road property’s opportunity as exciting.
âIt will definitely be unique to our community, and it’s definitely exciting to participate and be able, in any way possible, to provide affordable housing to the community,â she said.
Toppen said he’s looking for some anchors in a system that keeps house prices high and makes lower-cost homes difficult to build – he’s even considered building tiny homes, but zoning and bank financing that favor larger structures make that too difficult.
The stress of a long drive compounded by construction delays, plus a wave of diners in Traverse City, makes Toppen think something has to give, he said.
âI can guarantee you I’m not going to be doing this (shuttle) forever,â he said. âI am actively seeking out-of-state accommodation, as I have lost hope of an immediate solution to this problem. It will take a long time for this to be resolved.