Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 29, 2012

Goodwill to build homes for the homeless


TRAVERSE CITY — Goodwill Industries of Northwest Michigan hopes to take the next step in addressing Traverse City's homeless problem with a roughly $4 million project to create 36 apartments of permanent supportive housing.

The nonprofit group that operates the Goodwill Inn Homeless Shelter proposes to use state low income housing tax credits to finance the project located behind the Cherryland Center in Garfield Township.

Four two-story buildings will contain 20 one-bedroom apartments and 16 two-bedroom units, plus office space for use by caseworkers and other service providers.

"It kinds of completes us to have a place of permanent housing," said Cecil McNally, executive director of Goodwill Industries. "We help people move from the Goodwill Inn to supportive housing, but there is a gap in what's available ... and our organization wants to fill that."

The project would have a case manager available to help residents maintain their housing by helping to coordinate services with other agencies, such as community mental health, veterans services, or addiction treatment services.

Goodwill this month received conceptual approval from Garfield Township planners. Planners like Goodwill's new design that makes the apartments look like townhouses that front on neighboring streets, with parking to the rear. Planners said the most recent design fits better with neighboring single family homes.

"We encourage a mix of housing types and ... there's a need for this kind of development," said Terry Clark, a member of the planning commission.

Key approvals likely will come in March from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, which must approve the tax credits.

"This low income housing tax credit stuff is enough to make your head explode," McNally said.

But McNally remains confident funding will be approved with construction to begin in the spring. Otherwise, Goodwill wouldn't have made the up-front investment in design and engineering fees.

"If it doesn't get approved we lose the money," McNally said. "But it fits what MSHDA is looking for and what the community needs survey shows is needed."