SOUTH HAVEN — “I’d like to live in South Haven but I can’t afford it.”
It’s a common lament people express about housing options in this lakeshore community.
City officials are well aware of it and earlier this year vowed to develop a plan to promote the development of housing for middle-class residents.
Now officials are taking action.
In September they, along with officials from South Haven Township Board and the South Haven Housing Commission, plan to meet with a housing development expert to address affordable housing options for the South Haven area.
The joint session is scheduled for 7 p.m., Sept. 9 at South Haven High School’s integrated learning center and will be led by Ryan Kilpatrick. A certified planner and economic development finance professional, Kilpatrick is also executive director of Ottawa County Housing Next, a non-profit based in Holland that works with government and private businesses to create affordable housing in Ottawa County.
Kilpatrick will be paid up to $15,000 for his services over the next 90-120 days.
Earlier this year, he was invited to present a program on affordable housing as part of the South Haven Speakers Series.
“It was an excellent presentation,” said South Haven Mayor Scott Smith.
Dissette said he’s glad to see the township, city and housing commission working together to address housing needs in the greater South Haven area.
“We’re truly going into it with a spirit of partnership,” Dissette said. “The housing commission and township have both offered to help fund bringing in an expert.”
Kilpatrick and governmental leaders will be tasked with determining the housing needs of people in the South Haven area, specifically employees, and what the economic market can bear in terms of new housing construction.
“There is sometimes a disconnect between the expressed preferences of community neighbors, housing advocates and public officials. Oftentimes, there is also a disconnect between market reality and community preferences,” Kilpatrick wrote in his proposal to the city.
He plans to take a two-pronged approach in assessing the housing needs of the South Haven area.
First, he and governmental leaders will determine whether the former Overton factory site on Indiana and Elkenburg streets can be redeveloped for residential purposes.
“That’s six acres the city owns,” Dissette said in reference to the Overton site.
While assessing the Overton site in the city limits, Kilpatrick will also be working with governmental leaders to determine what types of affordable housing may be lacking throughout the South Haven area. Once it is determined what types of housing can be developed, Kilpatrick will provide conceptual designs for residential developments.
“This is not something that will be done in one night,” Dissette said.
In terms of the Overton site, for example, it will first need to be determined whether residential homes can be constructed on the property, which was once home to the S. E. Overton company, which manufactured wood products, including gun stocks during World War II.
“Utilizing available information on file at the City of South Haven, Van Buren County and State of Michigan, we will clearly define, assemble and consolidate all known constraints associated with the property pertaining to environmental contaminants, required due care, soil conditions, availability of public and/or private utilities, property boundaries, etc.,” Kilpatrick wrote in his proposal.