Joint effort by the Archdiocese of Detroit, MHT Housing, Inc., will bring 53 affordable housing units to vital Woodward corridor
DETROIT — Founded by Jesus Christ and made visible to the whole of creation, the Catholic Church offers a spiritual home for billions seeking refuge from life’s storms.
Now, thanks to a joint effort between the Archdiocese of Detroit, MHT Housing, Inc., and the city of Detroit, the Church is helping provide a physical home for dozens of low-income Detroiters.
Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, Mayor Mike Duggan and officials from the city and Archdiocese of Detroit pushed shovels into the dirt June 8 to begin construction of the Cathedral Arts Apartments, a four-story building with 53 units of “deeply affordable housing” on the city’s north end.
The $19.7 million project, to be built on a vacant lot across Woodward Avenue from the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, will also bring 6,000 square feet of commercial, retail and community programming space, including a workforce training center, to the Gateway community just north of the city’s Boston-Edison neighborhood.
The project will take approximately 15 months to build, slated to open in the fall of 2024.
Mayor Duggan, who joined the groundbreaking ceremony shortly after celebrating the re-opening of the historic Book Tower in downtown Detroit, thanked the archbishop and the Archdiocese of Detroit for its commitment to the city.
“There was a time when the only interest in housing was in downtown and Midtown. We’ve seen the demand come back all across this city,” Mayor Duggan said. “The archdiocese is the trustee of a lot of valuable land, and what you have done here is what we would have prayed for — that you’re taking very valuable land and creating 53 affordable units to help rebuild this neighborhood and rebuild the Woodward corridor.”
The empty lot has been owned and maintained by the Archdiocese of Detroit and cathedral for nearly 20 years, and the partnership allows the property to be put to good use to serve Detroiters along one of the city’s most important corridors, the mayor said.
Archbishop Vigneron blessed the site, joining cathedral rector Fr. J.J. Mech and leaders from the city, MHT Housing and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority in celebrating the project.
“I am grateful that the archdiocese has this opportunity to partner with the City of Detroit to bring new, affordable housing to the area surrounding our beloved cathedral,” the archbishop said in a statement. “We are excited to participate in this next step in the ongoing revitalization of Detroit, bringing growth and resources to another neighborhood. As part of our mission, we strive to be an outward, mission-focused Church in Detroit that is focused not only on those in our pews, but on everyone in our community.”
The property will be owned by a new joint venture established between MHT Housing, Inc., and the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and will be managed by MHT Management, which serves as a landlord to 30,000 residents across Michigan. Proceeds from the venture will benefit the mission and ministry of the cathedral, which includes its commitment to the surrounding community.
Both MHT Housing Inc. and the Archdiocese of Detroit contributed funds to the project, which also secured financing through the MSHDA and the Detroit Housing Commission.
In a surprise, leaders played a video from Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg congratulating the city and archdiocese on the “much-needed” project.
“Big congratulations to the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Archdiocese of Detroit on this groundbreaking, state-of-the-art Cathedral Arts Apartments, which will be creating much-needed, high-quality affordable housing in the city of Detroit and furthering Archbishop Vigneron’s ‘Unleash the Gospel’ mission,” Wahlberg said. “I’m so happy for your success, and I wish you the best on this exciting new development. God bless you, and keep doing the Lord’s work.”
Detroit has suffered for decades from a lack of affordable housing, a crisis exacerbated by the city’s declining population. Since 2015, the city has helped preserve 8,000 existing affordable units and build another 2,000 units.
“We know affordable housing is really a crisis within our state and our country, and it takes all of us together to be able to put these complicated developments together,” said Kelly Rose, chief housing solutions officer with the MSHDA. “We’re happy to be able to participate and bring these financing sources together and to recognize the need for deeply affordable units.”
The archbishop has stressed the need for parishes to be good stewards and neighbors within their geographical areas, to reach out to those in need with cultural competency, Fr. Mech said.
In addition to the Cathedral Arts Apartments, the cathedral and MHT Housing have hosted neighborhood cleanup events, food distribution and even provides free Wi-Fi broadcast from the cathedral’s bell towers to residents within a half-mile radius.
“This way of understanding our community is an important component of our work to grow our cathedral into an Apostolic Center of Arts and Culture that will provide arts, culture, education, and service opportunities for the spiritual and social renewal of the people we serve,” Fr. Mech said. “This will allow people of all faiths and backgrounds to be warmly welcomed within the Catholic Church. It is truly an exciting and unprecedented time for the Cathedral and surrounding community.”
Once complete, the new apartments will offer a broad range of units available at different price points depending on economic need. Rents will start at $960 for residents with incomes at or below 60 percent of the area’s median income, $800 for those at or below 40 percent, and $540 for residents at or below 30 percent.
Sixteen units will be set aside for residents making less than 30 percent of the area’s median income, and those individuals will not pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities, thanks to project-based vouchers from the Detroit Housing Commission.
The development also will include wrap-around programs that including job training and commercial retail space.
“MHT is thrilled to partner with the AOD to develop and manage 53 units of much needed affordable housing in Detroit in a brand new, state-of-the-art facility,” said Van Fox, president of MHT Housing. “We are also excited to launch, with the help of Citizens Bank, another training center to offer community members paid training in the property maintenance field, internships and full-time jobs.”
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