Kalamazoo Co. voters deciding on housing millage proposal

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Voters in Kalamazoo County are being asked to consider a new housing millage. 

The .75 mills proposal would generate an estimated $50 million over eight years. A person owning a home valued at $100,000 would pay about $38 a year. 

If approved, it would replace the existing .1 mills housing millage that will finish collecting in December. 

There is no organized opposition to the millage, but some residents have voiced concerns about it adding to their taxes. 

Chris Burns, a Portage city councilman and a supporter advocating for the new millage, says the money would benefit all residents in a variety of ways. 

“There’s going to be a community benefit to this program because some of what we can do is going to affect property values in a positive way, so this money will be flexible and we can use it for example to renovate blighted properties and make those available as affordable units too,” Burns said. 

David Artley, the chair of the Kalamazoo County Public Housing Commission, says a survey of 500 people was conducted in June.

“Sixty-two to 65% of the folks that responded across the county in all geographic areas said that they were willing to help the broader spectrum for the lower (and) middle-income folks to maintain safe, affordable, accessible housing,” Artley said. 

Artley says the survey showed enough support for the proposal to pass despite concerns about the cost. 

“In that survey, some people did even observe, ‘we’re getting taxed to death,’ but people can’t live (outside) and be homeless and so some of those same folks said, ‘but we’re willing to pay a higher tax rate,’” Artley said.   

The housing commission chair says they could use the money to partner with developers and would hope to build 700 new units over the eight-year period. 

“It’s not going to completely solve the issue, but we need to start chipping away at the problem, otherwise it’s just going to continue to grow,” Burns said.