MSHDA has recently issued a call for proposals to their Neighborhood Enhancement Program, with local applications due December 1.  Municipalities and 501(c)3 non-profits can apply for up to $30,000 or $50,000 (depending on size) in funding for local exterior home improvements or public space improvements.

In mentioning that funding opportunity, I want to point to the Oswego Renaissance Association in upstate New York as a great precedent for how these relatively small grants can be used for substantial impacts. The ORA has one of the neatest programs I’ve found via Strong Towns. As they explain,

Among other activities, the Oswego Renaissance Association makes small matching grants to clusters of homeowners who want to collaboratively improve the exterior of their neighborhood. This results in a huge return on investment, not to mention the value of neighbors working together…often for the first time.

This is a simple but profound process that unlocks neighbors’ confidence in their neighborhood.

The ORA’s mini-grant program supports small, visible investments and repairs on clusters of properties, helping spin up collective action and belief on blocks where residents may be suffering from despair about their neighborhood’s prospects. Where the hurdle to residents’ reinvestment is as much about their belief that it’s “worth it” as it is the dollar cost, a program like this can get everyone moving together and supporting each others’ efforts.  (Often, of course, these neighborhoods also suffer from larger economic shifts or histories of discrimination, challenges that require larger interventions and shouldn’t be overlooked in a search for quick fixes.)

MSHDA’s program can be used in exactly this way — to offer every home on a block some funding for exterior rehab, providing a visual and emotional impact that’s greater than what might happen from just one home being fixed up: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. As an example, Battle Creek’s past grantees Neighborhood Inc. note that their use of NEP funds for home repairs not only got those household engaged in additional projects, but generated a lot of attention from surrounding neighborhood residents.

The MSHDA funds are limited to owner-occupied single family homes, so unfortunately can only be used for a subset of neighborhood residences. A non-profit applicant, community foundation, or private sponsor could add funds to cover these gaps in eligibility; note that the municipality generally cannot use its funds for activities like private home repair.

The League Launches New Program on Developing Great Places

Gallery

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Over the past several years, the League has worked with many partners to create how-to guides, conduct data-informed studies, and carry out dynamic placemaking activities in communities across Michigan. We’ve now built a new online collection of resources, success stories, … Continue reading

MSHDA step forwardOur friends at MSHDA asked the Michigan Municipal League to help them spread the word about this home ownership program:

From Michigan State Housing Development Authority:

Since 2010, the Step Forward Michigan program has been helping Michiganders recover from the recession and foreclosure crisis of the last decade. Assistance with interest-free loans to help with mortgage payments, condominium fees or property taxes is still available, and there may be people in your communities who still could use a hand up.

To learn how your community can share details about Step Forward, click here for a sample newsletter letter article, shareable graphics and more.

While foreclosure rates are down, fear of foreclosure is still a terrifying reality for many Michigan homeowners. A health emergency, a layoff, a divorce – each of these can cause a homeowner to fall behind on mortgage or property tax payments. Michigan’s economy is on the mend, but many families are still struggling. Step Forward Michigan is dedicated to helping Michigan homeowners get back on their feet and retain ownership of their homes.

Federally funded through Michigan’s Hardest Hit Fund program, Step Forward Michigan offers up to $30,000 in interest-free loans for Michigan homeowners who have fallen on hard times. To qualify for assistance, a homeowner must have experienced an involuntary qualifying hardship. Examples of qualifying hardships include medical emergencies, job loss, or divorce.

Besides being interest free, a loan through the Step Forward Michigan program requires no monthly payments and is forgivable over a five-year period at a forgiveness rate of 20 percent per year. After the homeowner lives in the house as his or her principal residence for five years, the loan will be forgiven.

For additional information on Step Forward Michigan, please visit stepforwardmichigan.org or call 866-946-7432. Step Forward website: https://www.stepforwardmichigan.org/en/.

Cadillac community stakeholders were busy at work again last week creating a sense of place centered around a critical one-block area of the downtown, connecting the backs of businesses like the Clam Lake Beer Co. along Mitchell Street and the new Baker College student apartments with the city’s lakefront park, band pavilion, award-winning Clam River Greenway and soon-to-be White Pine Trailhead.

After one-on-one stakeholder interviews and a great community visioning session in early December, a steady stream of stakeholder groups and interested citizens could be found visiting the two-day charrette last week, examining the two initial design concepts created by the MSU PlacePlans design team. The convenient location of the charrette process on the third floor of a contiguous building provided a bird’s-eye view of the design area, greatly aiding discussion.

Collaborative discussion resulted in creative suggestions such as the addition of a second dock for boaters, a separate dedicated fishing pier, landscape-designed seating for music events, the memorial fountain as a year-round attraction, brightening up and creating friendly access at the backs of bordering businesses, and creating safe and attractive walkways from nearby parking.

Rotary Pavilion - CadillacCadillac residents and business owners were not only philosophical and strategic about the typically bristly issue of reduced parking, but also about the service delivery alley and the sometimes polarizing subject of potentially closing Lake Street. They tended toward compromise in all areas, such as keeping Lake Street engineered as a roadway, but designed as a pedestrian environment with retractable bollards for opening and closing the roadway as practical.

The Michigan Municipal League is proud to be partnered with MSU  and MSHDA in the PlacePlans program, and we are as excited as the people of Cadillac to see the next and near final, concept unveiling.