By Colton Dale
IN EARLY 2019, TWO POWERHOUSE NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS MERGED TO COMBINE THEIR EFFORTS and work as one group toward their common goals of reducing homelessness and expanding Oakland County’s affordable housing stock.
WHAT USED TO BE SOUTH OAKLAND SHELTER AND LIGHTHOUSE OF OAKLAND COUNTY is now simply known as Lighthouse, and their merging of personnel, operations, and missions has only made them stronger.
Shortly after the merger, Lighthouse announced that it cleared a major hurdle in bringing an affordable housing development to Oak Park on Coolidge Hwy between Eight Mile Rd and Nine Mile Rd. A year and a half later, what is now known as the Coolidge Place development is almost complete.
Coolidge Place is an affordable housing project on a 4.5-acre site that is bringing 64 townhouse and ranch-style apartments to Oak Park, as well as green spaces and a community center for residents of the complex to enjoy.
“It is extremely difficult for low-income families to climb out of poverty when housing costs consume most of their income,” said Ryan Hertz, president and CEO of Lighthouse. “We hope Coolidge Place paves the way for more developments that help level the playing field in terms of equitable access to lower-cost, high-quality housing because everyone deserves a place to call home.”
A $15 million project in total, Coolidge Place was made possible in part by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) via a $1.3 million Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. This tax credit is expected to provide roughly $12.5 million in equity toward the total cost of the project, a major financial boost during a time when finding financing can be difficult.
THE NEED FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS IN OAKLAND COUNTY has been clear for a long time. Communities like Royal Oak, Ferndale, Birmingham, and others that provide great neighborhoods and bustling commercial districts are often far too costly for many people to afford. This leaves lower and middle-income people out of the discussion when talks arise of growing the County’s population and making it a welcoming place for all. As evidenced in a 2018 report from the Urban Institute, fewer than 50 affordable units are available in Oakland County for every 100 low-income households. This is precisely the gap that Lighthouse seeks to help close, as their mission is to make sure that everyone, regardless of income level, is able to find a quality, affordable home in Oakland County.
“Unfortunately, for all of our wealth, our county is among the worst in the state when it comes to providing available and affordable rental units. We must do far better for our community,” said Hertz. “Coolidge Place will help us begin to chip away at this barrier to economic stability for working families by building dozens of beautiful and affordable apartments for our neighbors.”
With support from City staff and officials, Lighthouse is developing Coolidge Place through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Spero Housing Group, in partnership with Southwest Housing Solutions in Detroit. Fusco, Shaffer & Pappas Inc. is the architect on the project and O’Brien Construction Co. is serving as general contractor with Ethos Development Partners as the development consultant.
“This is an important point in time for our city,” said Oak Park City Manager Erik Tungate. “This project will help spark new development in the immediate area and will transition an otherwise obsolete stretch of property into a vibrant corridor.”
Rents are expected to range from $389/month to $824/month for one, two and three-bedroom units. More information on the Coolidge Place development can be found here: www.southoaklandshelter.org/coolidge-place