In May, Phil Ross’s longtime girlfriend Sharon Winn passed away. Now, four months later, the 68-year-old could lose his home.
Ross and Winn lived in a Brighton apartment with their dog Elle, before Winn’s death. Rent is $ 750 per month which was manageable with two incomes. This is now unfeasible for Ross with his Social Security allowance of $ 1,000 per month.
âBasically I can pay the rent, but not the utilities. I’m in a bad position,â he said. “I can keep doing this for a little while but I don’t know for how long.”
Ross began looking for less expensive accommodation in Livingston County shortly after Winn’s death. After months of phone calls and searches, he still hasn’t found a place.
“I have made at least 50 phone calls and inquiries at various apartments. No luck so far,” Ross said. “I’m on waiting lists that go on for years.”
Several nonprofits, including Catholic Charities, have helped Ross pay the rent, but it’s not a viable long-term solution. Without their help, Ross will be kicked out.
“If they kick him out he will literally become homeless,” said Beth Newman, who works for Livingston County Catholic Charities. “He will live in his truck, under a bridge or someone will house him at the Kensington Inn and he will pay an astronomical sum.”
Ross is not alone in his struggles, Newman said.
The organization regularly receives calls asking for low income housing options.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many, she says.
“It’s here and it’s rampant”
It is not just seniors who are struggling to find housing in Livingston County.
A 2020 study commissioned by the Livingston County Homeless Care Continuum of Care found that 45% of households in the county are burdened with housing costs, spending more than 30% of their income on housing. About 20% of households spend more than 50% of their income on housing.
Of the 191,995 residents living in Livingston County, 7,679 live in poverty, according to the 2019 Census U.S. Community Survey.
The poverty level for an individual is $ 12,800 per year, according to federal guidelines. That’s $ 26,500 for a family of four.
âPeople look at Livingston County and don’t see the homeless situation. It’s here and rampant,â Newman said. “They see Howell town center, they see Brighton town center, they see Hartland town center,” she said. “They don’t look past that.”
Demand for affordable housing is growing not only in Livingston County but across the country, said Brad Michaud, chief financial officer of the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency.
âThere is a need everywhere,â he said. “Livingston County is not unique.”
OLSHA currently has 33 housing units in the county between Fowlerville and Brighton through its Venture, Inc. program, the affordable housing affiliate of OLHSA.
âAffordable housing is really for people who work in your community,â he said. âEmployees of restaurants or employees of retail stores. It is aimed at people who work daily.
âIt’s for the people who already live in your community, except they’re barely getting by, some wondering where they come to rest their heads each night,â Michaud said.
Lack of housing
According to Census Bureau data, less than 2% of Livingston County’s 77,728 dwellings are intended for low-income families.
âI think the bottom line is that there isn’t enough housing, period,â said Connie Conklin, director of community mental health for Livingston County. âThere really isn’t enough affordable housing. A lot of new housing tends to be off-market for a lot of the people we can serve.
According to data from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, 559 homes or apartments are listed as Section 8 dwellings in Livingston County. An additional 470 apartments fall under the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program.
To qualify for Section 8 housing, family income must not exceed 50% of the county’s median income, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. To qualify for a housing tax credit, family income cannot exceed 60% of the median income.
For those who live in Livingston County, that means they must earn less than $ 42,110 per year for Section 8 and $ 50,532 per year for LIHTC. Livingston’s median income is $ 84,221.
Conklin said there is often a stigma around affordable housing.
âIf you say affordable housing, what does that mean for people? ” she said. âAffordable Housing: It could be your child, it could be your family member, it could be your friend who can’t afford it. I think sometimes people have a picture of what it means and it’s not a fair picture. “
Affordable housing is scattered throughout the county, much of it in Howell, including 240 apartments in the Lakeshore Village apartment complex.
âThese units are reserved for families whose gross income does not exceed 50% or 60% of the median income in the Livingston County area,â said Chris Bromley, regional manager of Lockwood Management LLC, in an email. does not necessarily mean rent. is affordable, but units are only available to people who do not exceed these income limits. “
Bromley said rates keep changing, but in August the cost of a two-bedroom apartment was around $ 1,290 and a three-bedroom apartment was around $ 1,400.
Union in Oak Grove, a proposed apartment complex in Howell Township, may offer more affordable housing in the years to come.
About 60% of the 220 apartments would be affordable units as defined by the Michigan State Housing and Development Authority. They would be supported by federal grants that give tenants a reduction in rent based on their income.
Depending on the proposal, some apartments could be offered for as low as $ 661 per month, depending on the income of the tenant.
Contact Kayla Daugherty at 517-552-2848 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @ KayDaugherty92.