With little cash to fund projects that will enable Michigan’s economic recovery, the state has received a helping hand from the federal government. Michigan was recently granted $223.9 million in federal stimulus funds, designated for allocation to the development and restructuring of housing facilities in struggling communities across the state. During this particularly stressful time for the housing market, Michigan needs support for recovery initiatives. But though the potential of this project is encouraging, it must place its primary focus on the people most in need of housing. To utilize the funds most effectively, the state must focus on the creation of more affordable housing options for Michigan residents.

At a press conference last week, federal Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan, along with Gov. Jennifer Granholm, announced that the state will receive $223.9 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority originally applied for $290 million for the program, but was only granted a portion of its request. The money the state received will be put towards the “New Michigan Urban Neighborhood Plan,” a project that intends to rebuild an estimated 1,500 foreclosed and vacant homes and demolish 2,500 more across the state. Detroit will receive the largest bulk of the funds at $40.8 million, but the initiative has also directed significant funds to several other communities including Lansing, Kalamazoo and Flint.

On top of the economic advantages of the “New Michigan Urban Neighborhood Plan,” it’s a bonus that the project won’t place another tax burden on already-struggling Michigan residents because the project is funded by the federal stimulus plan. It’s only logical that the Housing Development Authority applied for the cash. There would have been no excuse for missing out on free federal funds for a state that desperately needs to give its economy — and its people — a boost.

The “New Michigan Urban Neighborhood Plan” has the potential to play an important role in rebuilding Michigan’s stagnant economy. The blighted properties lower the property values of a community and discourage the recovery of the struggling housing market. The “New Michigan Urban Neighborhood Plan” will demolish vacant and foreclosed properties in areas particularly affected by the recession and build new homes in their place. The revitalization of these neighborhoods will create a more attractive community that will improve the housing market in these areas.

But the residents of distressed areas like Detroit and Flint need more than attractive new homes. Individuals who have been hit hardest by Michigan’s especially dismal economic downturn have equally pressing needs. The federal money should address the most pressing needs of the state — and families struggling to make ends meet are in desperate need of affordable housing. When the Michigan State Housing Development begins to build these new and improved facilities, it must make constructing affordable housing that accommodates low-income residents a top priority.

The “New Michigan Urban Neighborhood Plan” offers a change to encourage the state’s economy and the revival of decaying communities. But the true value of this program goes far beyond the economy. The creation of more affordable housing is necessary to help people and families in need.

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