Housing Commission to change direction
Published March 20, 2023
Written by Adams
Photography by Simply American
The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners replaced a politician, professor, and lawyer with a builder, realtor, and former HUD official on the Housing Commission.
On March 14, 2023, Ottawa County Administrator John Gibbs was appointed by board chair Joe Moss to lead the Ottawa County Housing Commission and to reestablish a county relationship with federal housing officials.
“We have a great opportunity in front of us, as we now have Administrator John Gibbs who has a significant background coming from HUD and a strong understanding of housing,” Mr. Moss said, “I look forward to his involvement on the Housing Commission.”
Since 2019 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development virtually has ignored county requests for assistance.
During the March meeting, Chairman Moss made a motion to consider a recommendation from the appointing authority to update the composition of the housing agency. He explained that henceforth the Housing Commission would go in a different direction, a direction that he said will be guided by more practitioners in housing-related industry.
His motion was to remove Commissioner Doug Zylstra, Virginia Beard, and Thomas Reinsma from the commission. During the discussion he indicated thanks for their past service to Ottawa County and the Housing Commission.
The motion led to discussion on whether the chairman’s update to the Housing Commission was politically motivated and legal.
Commissioner Zylstra made a motion to require the appointment process to proceed through the Talent & Recruitment Committee. His motion failed 5-6. (Yeas: Commissioners Kyle Terpstra, Rebekah Curran, Jacob Bonnema, Doug Zylstra, and Roger Bergman) (Nays: Commissioners Joe Moss, Gretchen Cosby, Lucy Ebel, Sylvia Rhodea, Allison Miedema, and Roger Belknap)
According to Article 4 of the Ottawa County Operations Ordinances 400.4.2.4, the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners is the “appointing authority” and can request to remove officials for any reason. This aligns with Michigan Compiled Law 125.653 and 125.654.
Opponents of Commissioner Zylstra’s motion insisted that processing the appointment through the Talent & Recruitment Committee would be a fruitless exercise since the responsibility for appointment lies wholly on the chairman, and is not subject to ratification by the board.
The board voted 8-3 to approve the chairman’s decision to remove Commissioner Zylstra, Mrs. Beard, and Mr. Reinsma from the Housing Commission. Voting in favor were Commissioners Moss, Cosby, Ebel, Curran, Bonnema, Rhodea, Miedema, and Belknap. Commissioners Terpstra, Zylstra, and Bergman opposed the motion.
Chairman Moss then appointed Administrator Gibbs, Jared Schuitema and Klynt Marcusse to the Housing Commission.
Adminstrator Gibbs was an official with HUD during the Trump administration. Mr. Schuitema was a realtor for several years and now is an associate broker. Prior to that he was in workforce development, specializing in integrity and faith-based real estate services. Mr. Marcusse has been a local builder for over a decade.
History of Housing Commission
The county established its housing commission in 2006 to qualify for certain HUD funds and programs such as the Housing Choice Voucher Program. The commission became inactive when HUD and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority stopped issuing new housing choice vouchers.
In November 2019 the commission reconvened. Since then, its minutes indicate HUD has declined to honor this county’s requests for housing assistance.
The commission received renewed attention in 2022 when the Board of Commissioners allocated $10 million in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021) funding to an affordable housing revolving loan fund. These funds will be combined with $23.3 million in matching funds to provide low-interest loans to developers, with the goal of making affordable housing projects more feasible.
The ARPA funds serve as a 20-year loan at 0% interest. At the end of the 20-year investment period, the Ottawa County Board of Commissions can request all or a portion of the County funds be returned to the County. The County may also choose to reinvest all or a portion for a second period of investment.