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Affordable housing proposal passes narrowly in Kalamazoo County

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Kalamazoo County wants more affordable housing. 

Voters this week approved a property tax increase that's expected to raise more than $6 million for housing development and related services in its first year. 


The measure passed by just over two percentage points. A similar proposal in Ann Arbor passed overwhelmingly. 


But Tracy Hall, chair of the Kalamazoo County board of commissioners, says she wasn’t surprised to see a tax during a time of general economic strain prevail by such a narrow margin. 


“It speaks to the generosity of our community that we were able to get this millage passed,” she said. “I’m incredibly grateful. I also recognize why, and understand and respect why (for) some it wasn’t a good time” to vote for the increase. 


About two thirds of the tax revenue will go toward developing housing units county-wide. The remaining third will be used for rental assistance and services like career counseling. 


Hall and other proponents celebrate the tax as a long-needed response to housing insecurity in the county as a whole, not just the city of Kalamazoo. 


"Rarely in our conversations, whether we’re talking about poverty or we’re talking about addiction or we’re talking about homelessness, do we talk about it in terms of what’s happening in some of our towns and our villages,” said Hall. 


The board of commissioners has not yet determined who will be eligible for the housing and services, but Hall says the criteria will be expansive. 


The new tax will go into effect at the end of 2021.

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Will Callan, a reporter for Michigan Radio, hails from the Bay Area, where he lived in Oakland and San Francisco and reported for local newspapers and magazines. He enjoys a long swim in chilly water (preferably followed by a sauna) and getting to know new cities. That's one reason he's excited to be in Ann Arbor, which he can already tell has just the right combo of urban grit and natural beauty to make him feel at home.
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