Crains Detroit Business
When the nonprofit Michigan League for Public Policy announced that Detroit's lack of safe, affordable housing could become much worse in the next few years, and those most in need are likely to suffer the worst, I nodded my head. I know too well that housing is one of the biggest barriers to social, emotional and economic health and well-being for Michigan families and the dearth of affordable, safe housing in Detroit and throughout Michigan.
Affordable housing is the top health and human service need in the country and in our state. In articles published online and in national media outlets, this urgent demand for good housing options comes up again and again as one of our most important focuses today. It's a concern we've had as we serve people struggling to stay afloat and keep their families together — which has been a huge motivator for us to collaborate toward building more affordable housing communities through tax credit-financed projects around the state.
For more than three decades, Samaritas has grown its affordable housing service to campuses, serving seniors, families and persons with disabilities. In July, we begin renovating the St. Joseph Seminary building in Grand Rapids. This site will include 52 apartments for seniors, seven of which will be seniors with disabilities. We are on track to submit several applications every year to MSHDA for tax credit financing approval to add sites throughout Michigan.
Congress recognizes the severe need for affordable housing and so has established tax credit financing to meet this need. While securing these funds in an extremely competitive market for affordable housing development can be daunting, we soldier on with the hope that we can continue to be successful to expand our affordable housing services throughout the state and provide safe residences for so many Michigan residents.
The need is increasing at a fast pace. While our legislators in Washington and in Lansing recognize and support this need, are we doing all we can do to empower every American with the tools they need to succeed? To survive? To thrive?
The best thing we can do when creating affordable housing is take the whole picture into account. Is the proposed site close to public transportation? Within a short distance of groceries? Medical and dental care? Urgent care? Community activities?
Location is everything. An affordable housing community has no value if it's far from the services and programs every day folks need to thrive.
Better yet, affordable housing campuses that offer a service coordinator on staff better meet the needs of residents. Maintenance, security and programming are essential elements that guarantee safety and promote community.
Doctor visits, field trips, parties, planned activities on and off site, guest speakers and classes keep people connected, involved and aware. Seniors in affordable communities like to volunteer at faith centers and schools; when transportation is easily accessible or provided by the community, they fulfill the soul-deep need to be of value, to give to others, and their lives and health benefit as do the people with whom they connect.
As the need for affordable, safe housing continues to grow, we need to meet those needs — and exceed them. If we are only as strong as our weakest link, then we must all care deeply about the welfare and well-being of every member of society — and do what we can to bring full health, satisfaction and value to every person among us. That's the promise that accompanies affordable housing if we are to turn things around.
Sam Beals is CEO of Samaritas, a Detroit-based human services agency. Crains Detroit Business