Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 14, 2014

Leelanau affordable housing group to disband

SUTTONS BAY -— Leelanau County residents facing foreclosure used to turn to Leelanau REACH, a nonprofit housing development corporation that will soon disband because it lacks money.

Members of the group, whose acronym stands for Resources for Economical and Accessible Community Housing, tried for a decade to develop affordable home ownership and rental housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income families in Leelanau County.

John Visser, the group’s treasurer, expects REACH to disband this year.

“Over the years we’ve had a lack of funding and that’s the biggest issue here,” Visser said. ‘We really needed a staff and never quite got to that point.”

The group recorded mortgages for eight county families, six of which remain. Visser asked county commissioners to take them over at a Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday.

The mortgages required no payment and no interest. Leelanau REACH members asked the people they helped to repay them if the home was sold or refinanced, and the county could gain about $20,000 if the mortgages are repaid.

“There really aren’t any strings attached to those. It’s a gift,” Visser said.

The group worked closely with the county’s planning department. He still worries about affordable housing opportunities in the county.

“There’s a definite need out there for low- to moderate-income home owners for decent, affordable housing,” Visser said. “I see it quite often with businesses in the community. They hire help to come up and work in Leelanau County, but the problem is the help comes up and finds out the cost of housing in Leelanau County and they can’t afford to live here.”

Leelanau REACH members tried to help clients even without funding.

“Oftentimes, we were able to help the homeowner without any cash being disbursed from the grant,” Visser said. “It was much easier for our group to communicate with the lender than it was for the homeowner, who didn’t really understand the process.”

Leelanau REACH also helped individuals purchasing homes with down payments and assisted in county efforts to develop affordable single-family homes, Visser said.

County commissioners will decide whether to take on the mortgages at their meeting next week.

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