Yarrow Brown: Use ARPA Funds for the iImpact Strategic Community | Business
It is important to recognize how amazing our community has been over the past year and to recognize its progress in breaking down barriers and finding creative housing solutions. This remains a major challenge and we must continue to work together to resolve it. It affects us all – the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.
There is still a long way to go, but we have reached over 50 of our 139 local governments working to become more ‘housing ready’ and provide achievable housing opportunities.
We delivered advocacy training and helped two new housing action groups train and work towards a Housing Ready program director to bring more housing to their communities.
We have worked with our partners on important legislative changes through the State Senate.
Our voices are heard in many areas, even in Lansing, where state agencies are considering more collaborative programs for rural communities.
There is still work to be done. Our communities have not been fully housing ready and we need to be prepared to deploy new tools and incentives in other parts of the state.
The pandemic is something we never wanted and has had an impact on our communities.
But we have an opportunity that requires us to be collaborative and strategic with the funds of the American Recovery Plan Act (or ARPA).
At Housing North, we have one goal: housing! Along with our partners, we are working to remove barriers to housing in our 10-county region.
We know housing is linked to so many things – child care, wages, mental health and more.
Without a community that meets its housing needs, there is no real progress.
Through our Coalition for Local Community Development, the Coalition for a Strong and Prosperous Michigan (https://www.miroadmap.com/) and our community, we can provide clear direction to our Senators and Representatives on how this ARPA funding can have the most impact and be leveraged to continue in perpetuity.
We can share strategic ways to use this funding to have a lasting impact in our region.
In Northwest Michigan and other rural communities, we sometimes get lost in the mix with lower-state areas and are often not eligible for incentives or programs for various reasons.
Our biggest fear at Housing North is that this money will not be set aside for communities like ours – places that don’t have community development staff or walking scores that make them competitive for programs, for provide support to developers and communities who want to provide housing.
We live in a world where the average house price is $ 250,000, but our average wage is less than $ 20 an hour.
If you earn $ 20 an hour and buy or rent a home that is considered “affordable” at 30% of your income, that works out to $ 1,000 per month, or a house of about $ 165,000. It is almost impossible to find a home at this price.
We need more than 14,000 homes in our 10-county area over the next four years, the majority needed for people earning less than $ 40,000 a year.
How do we make sure there is enough housing for our workers year round, many of whom are making $ 20 an hour or less?
What is our responsibility as community members, nonprofits, elected officials and businesses to ensure that everyone has housing and that it remains affordable in the long run?
We are finding opportunities to use ARPA funds for many programs and needs in our communities, including housing.
We are convinced that these funds can be used to help find housing and create a revolving loan fund. Housing North is there to help communities invest in housing and housing programs.
The Michigan Municipal League coalition is working diligently to bring a plan to lawmakers in our states. We encourage you to review this plan, join the coalition and contact your elected officials.
From what we understand, Michigan lags behind many states in allocating ARPA funds. We must make sure we seize the opportunity to collaborate and be strategic with these funds to meet the needs of our communities.
Through our local community development coalition in five counties, we know that the top priorities are housing, youth mental health and child care.
Let’s make sure these funds are used to advance those priorities and make our communities stronger, more diverse and more resilient in the months and years to come.
Please contact your elected officials and let them know that you support this coalition and that you want ARPA funds directed to programs that will impact Northwest Michigan. You can find more information on our website accommodationnord.org or to mml.org.