The Ferndale City Council approved a 53-unit, mixed-use affordable housing project Jan. 25. The rendering shows the approved design for the Raymond E. Shepherd House.

The Ferndale City Council approved a 53-unit, mixed-use affordable housing project Jan. 25. The rendering shows the approved design for the Raymond E. Shepherd House.

Rendering provided by the city of Ferndale

Ferndale approves mixed-use affordable housing project

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published February 9, 2021


FERNDALE — The Ferndale City Council approved a planned unit development that will bring a mixed-use affordable housing project to Nine Mile Road.

At its Jan. 25 meeting, the council held a public hearing on a mixed-use housing development from Full Circle Communities, which was approved later that night. The PUD is a 53-unit project with 41 one-bedroom units and 12 two-bedroom units located at 503 E. Nine Mile Road. It also will have 26 off-street parking spaces, three electric vehicle charging stations and 32 spaces for bicycles. The development is estimated to cost $17.4 million. There is no date set to start construction.

The development is Ferndale’s first privately funded affordable housing project. The rents of all units are “tied to a mix of 30%, 50%, and 60% of our Area Median Income,” according to city documents. In a presentation delivered to City Council, a single person household with a maximum income of $33,000 can qualify for a unit and expect to pay within a rental range of $441 to $883 a month. A two-person household with a maximum income of 37,680 can expect to pay within a rental range of $441 to $1,060.

“There are certain general income levels of the community, and those percentages link to the number of people fit within that category of Area Median Income,” said Environmental Sustainability Planner Erin Quetell. “It’s a percentage of that average, basically. You would have to fit within one of those income brackets to qualify to be able to live in this establishment. … It’s a way to provide really targeted, specified affordable housing options for the folks that fit within those income levels.”

The building will be called the Raymond E. Shepherd House, named after a longtime Ferndale resident who died in 2018 and who was very active in the LGBTQ community.

Ferndale has been aiming to establish an affording housing development for some time. Last year, the City Council approved a plan that stated the city’s goals with affordable housing for seniors, renters and to offer a diverse housing stock.

“There’s been discussions of other projects in the past, but none of them have come to fruition, so this one is really exciting for it to be approved by the Planning Commission and City Council,” Quetell said. “It fits within some of the findings and some of the ideas that were laid out in the affordable housing … policy that was adopted last year. We’re hoping that this gives us the precedent for future projects.”

James Dow, the project manager with Full Circle Communities, recognized what the developer considers to be the benefits of the project, such as a sustainable building and site design, open space greenways, the diversification of housing and the clean up of site contamination. He said they’ve heard from city staff and residents how green space was important to Ferndale and to that they’ve included 3,000 square feet of open green space at the corner of Vester Avenue and Paxton Street.

“That’ll consist of a large patio and native plant gardens. … This is a pedestrian-friendly design that’s got some activated ground-floor space along East Nine Mile where we’re really bringing new housing offerings to nearby downtown Ferndale.”

The mixed-used portion of the project isn’t retail or office space, but an activation area, according to Quetell, that’s going to be used as a community space.

“They’re gonna have both public and private areas in the community space,” she said. “There’s gonna be amenities for residents, but then there’s gonna be a space that’s open and available to the public. … For the community space that’s open to the public, they’re partnering with organizations like Affirmations to provide programming for residents and for the public as well. Other than that, it’s going to be residential.”

The project also was highlighted many times during the meeting for being a housing option for seniors in the LGBTQ community.

Dow said the need for an age- and LGBTQ-friendly affordable housing is greater than ever due to not just an aging baby boomer population, but economic impacts that have been compounded by COVID-19.

“Decades of unemployment, segregation and marriage inequality have led to higher rates of economic insecurity for LGBTQ adults and ... the same population is more likely to face discrimination when it comes to finding safe, quality, affordable housing,” he said.

This was brought up too by resident Angela Lippard during the meeting. Referring to herself as someone who’s worked with older adults for over a decade and who is active in the LGBTQ community, Lippard voiced her support for the project.

“I support affordable housing, especially housing that targets LGBT older adults,” she said. “Affordable housing in our area has become scarce, leaving a lot of our friends in the LGBT community looking elsewhere, including looking in communities that are not affirming. I can say that affordable housing for older adults is a huge unmet need too. I am aware that due to funding sources that Full Circle cannot restrict this housing by age or to LGBT+ identifying folks. However, I trust the relationships built so that they can target accordingly.”

Councilman Greg Pawlica has been an advocate for affordable housing in the past. During the meeting, he stated there are senior housing facilities that are welcoming to LGBTQ persons, but they are “very far and few between.”

“It’s a generational thing. While people under the age of 50 are much more accepting of the LGBTQ community, there is a much greater chance (of) a heterosexual person over the age of 70 being less accepting and more comfortable openly expressing anti-LGBTQ hateful slurs and making older LGBTQ persons feel threatened, and no one should ever feel threatened in a place they call home,” he said.

“I know a number of older LGBTQ persons who fear being forced into the closet if they have no choice but to move into a housing facility that does not support the LGBTQ community, and just as bad, you have LGBTQ persons who, for a variety of reasons, should be living in a senior … housing facility, but they stay in their home, which may not serve their current health needs, or worse, they cannot afford to move so they can’t afford the home or afford the move, so they eat unhealthy or stop taking medications,” he continued. “So facilities that support LGBTQ seniors are crucial to the health and well-being of our community.”