Sens. Chang, VanderWall Introduce Bills to Promote Affordable Housing

LANSING, Mich. (Sept. 6, 2022) — Today, Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) announced legislation to help more low-income Michiganders obtain, and keep, affordable housing.

Michigan continues to face a housing crisis, with homeowners and renters alike struggling to stay in their homes. Senate Bills 1141 and 1142 seek to strengthen Community Land Trusts (CLTs), a great tool for more affordable housing for low-income residents, without reducing local revenues from property taxes.

CLTs are private, nonprofit, community-based organizations designed to ensure community stewardship of land. Usually governed by a board of residents, they promote housing affordability and sustainable development by retaining the ownership of land underneath a home, selling the house and other structures to an income-qualified household at a reduced price, and then leasing the land to the buyer.

However, despite the nonprofits’ 501(c)(3) status, the land is still taxed because it is leased to a private entity. CLTs are required to pass these taxes on to the income-limited homeowner, who also has any residential improvements taxed at their full market value despite the land-lease arrangement restricting future sale prices. This, in turn, makes underwriting CLT mortgages more difficult. CLTs are an innovative, growing trend across the state and country that can help address the housing crisis, and that should be made easier to access.

In response, Senate Bill 1141, introduced by Sen. Chang, would make the CLT homeowner’s tax credit equal to all taxes owed on the leased land and up to 25% of the taxes owed on the residential structures.

“Detroit and Michigan have seen housing become less and less affordable in recent years. We must do all we can to keep long-term residents in their homes and make good housing more attainable,” Sen. Chang said. “My legislation builds upon the ingenuity that community land trust programs bring to the table by offering a refundable income tax credit for homeowners who are still required to pay property taxes on the land they are leasing. This will help grow our CLT programs in the state and help residents across the state struggling with housing.”

To also aid with housing stability, Sen. VanderWall’s legislation, Senate Bill 1142, would create a method that allows the state to remit the amount of credit directly to the homeowner’s local tax collecting unit in exchange for a reduced tax levy. By doing this, lenders would then be allowed to reduce monthly escrow payments for the homeowner and underwrite their mortgage with that reduction.

“We have a real problem with housing in Northern Michigan. People from all over the country flock to the beautiful parks and cities up North but our workforce has taken a hit because seasonal employees can’t find housing,” Sen. VanderWall noted. “We need to explore creative solutions like this to lower housing prices not just for these seasonal workers, but for families who live here year-round.”

In addition, the land lease includes a provision that when the home is sold again, the homeowner receives all the equity they put into it except for a percentage of its appreciation value, which promotes their financial stability and mobility. This also allows the home to be resold affordably through a ‘pay it forward’ approach.

Reverend Joan C. Ross, founder and executive director of the North End Woodward Community Coalition (NEWCC) is among those who have been helping to create communities in Detroit that are culturally, economically, and environmentally sustainable through her own ‘pay it forward’ approach. Her efforts led to the beginning of the Storehouse of Hope in 2015, which established the first CLT in Detroit to save families who were victims of tax foreclosures.

“We are in an affordable housing crisis, and at the very depth of this crisis are low-income families with hopes of homeownership. The Community Land Trust model of ‘shared equity’ ownership offers the opportunity for the dream to become a reality,” Rev. Ross said. “I encourage folks to pause and consider the support that Senate Bills 1141 and 1142 will provide to the many families across our state who are holding onto that dream.”

Jessica AcMoody, policy director for the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM), also voiced her support for the legislation.

“CLTs are innovative models that create more vibrant, sustainable communities by giving Michiganders a pathway to homeownership,” said AcMoody. “CEDAM is excited to support Senate Bills 1141 and 1142, which will bring more affordable and accessible housing to Michiganders while also promoting economic mobility and equity.”

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