KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — With Kalamazoo preparing to renew its emergency housing ordinance, advocates are questioning some of the proposed changes to rules for new housing options.
“Their idea was to tweak it and improve it based on what they thought with lack of evidence of actual emergency housing being built anywhere,” said advocate Tobi Hanna-Davies, co-chair of the ISAAC TRHT Housing Task Force.
City staff told News 8 that no housing projects have taken off since the ordinance’s inception.
For example, Housing Resources Inc. was working on a plan that would have installed 50 portable housing units. Instead, the pods have sat in storage for the past year. The organization’s efforts to find a property and undergo a site feasibility study could be wasted if the commission’s proposal passes as-is.
“These changes, notably the quantity of units and the phasing requirement, make it impossible to establish our pod community,” HRI Executive Director Michelle Davis said.
That phasing requirement would allow no more than 20 units initially, then an additional 20 units for every two city inspections passed, with 180 days between each.
Hanna-Davies said waiting a year to add housing units doesn’t make sense.
“The need is so great. There are way more than 50 people who are going to apply for these pods because they’re so much better than an encampment or a giant room with everybody all together in a shelter,” she said.
But advocates welcomed a change that deals with the ordinance’s sunset: Instead of another two years to December 2025, it would expire in April 2029.
“Extending it for five more years plus a winter? That’s excellent,” Hanna-Davies said.
The proposal has not yet gone up for a vote. City staff are still working on rewording it. Davis said she was encouraged by the ongoing work but was not prepared to comment further until the proposal was back on the city commission’s agenda.