KALAMAZOO, MI — A tax proposal is back on the ballot for Kalamazoo County voters in 2020 to continue and expand support for rent subsidies and affordable housing first passed by voters in 2015.
The new millage purposes a 0.75-mill property tax for eight years, 2021 through 2028, to provide rental subsidies, permanent housing and related supportive services for residents of Kalamazoo County.
The previous millage was a 0.1-mill tax and was estimated to raise about $800,000 annually, for a period of six years. So far, the money has helped more than 500 families with children. The millage passed in 2015 with 18,971 votes cast in favor and 14,639 against.
The 2020 millage expands the language beyond helping families with school-age children. Housing advocates say this millage would fill in the gap for veterans, individuals and residents with disabilities.
In five years, the homelessness rate has increased exponentially, said Homes for All co-chairs Stephanie Hoffman and Chris Burns. Hoffman is the Executive Director of Open Doors and Burns is a Portage City Council member.
This millage tackles two prongs of the homelessness issue — high rent costs and low availability for housing. The vacancy rate in Kalamazoo County hovers around 5% for apartments, Burns said.
If it passed, the millage would raise a total of $6.3 million in the first calendar year. For the owner of a $100,000 home, the tax adds up to about $38 a year, Hoffman said.
The millage money will go toward subsidizing rent for individuals and families as well as expanding affordable housing options in the county.
Local leaders representing veterans, school districts, community centers and individuals with disabilities gathered at the subsidized apartment complex Milham Meadows in Portage to support Homes for All.
At the press conference, Michelle Davis, executive director of Housing Resources Inc., encouraged voters to vote in favor of the millage.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the homelessness problem in Kalamazoo County. She asked attendees how individuals can stay at home and how children can do homework when they don’t have a home of their own.
Prior to the pandemic, HRI estimated 700 individuals were homeless in the county, Davis said.
“I’m often asked, ‘I’m just one person, how do I help?’,” Davis said. “Well collectively and individually, this is your moment. By voting ‘yes’ you are individually making a difference and making a change.”
The following proposal language will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot for voters in Kalamazoo County:
For the purpose of funding housing programs in Kalamazoo County, shall the constitutional limitation upon the total amount of taxes which may be assessed in one (1) year upon all property within the County of Kalamazoo, Michigan, be increased in an amount up to but not to exceed 0.75 mills ($0.75 on each $1 ,000 of taxable value) for a period of eight (8) years (2021-2028 inclusive), to provide rental subsidies, permanent housing and related supportive services for residents of Kalamazoo County? If approved and levied in full, this millage would raise an estimated $6,375,000.00 in the first calendar year of its levy based on taxable value.
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