Work begins on renovation and rebranding of Village of Kalamazoo Apartments

Work begins on renovation and rebranding of Village of Kalamazoo Apartments. (WWMT/Cyrus Raymond)

A wall smashing kicked off a multi-million-dollar renovation for the Hope Network as they transform the Village of Kalamazoo Apartments into Lilac Hills.

The new Lilac Hills will be a more contemporary affordable housing community with 165-units near West Michigan Avenue and South Drake Road.

People who call the apartments home are excited for the a top-to-bottom, inside-and-out renovation that begin Tuesday. Even before the project was announced, there was a wait list to move in.

While they are happy, they also say Kalamazoo needs more affordable housing developments.

Tasha Williams said she moved into an apartment in April, after four-month struggle to find affordable housing in Kalamazoo.

Williams said, “That was like hell. That was the hardest, that's the hardest thing.”

She and her daughter stayed in a homeless shelter for about a month until a place opened up at what will soon be transformed into Lilac Hills.

Hope Network Executive Director of Affordable Independent Living Virgie Ammerman said, “The solution to homelessness and the lack of housing is more housing.”

The hope network is the Grand Rapids non-profit behind the $18 million dollar renovations.

Ammerman said, “Here in Kalamazoo especially we know that there's a shortage of between 5-8,000 units of affordable housing.”

Once it is rebranded the complex will continue to serve households that bring in below 60 percent of the area's median income.

Williams said, “It's actually a good place to be it's just hard to find housing and, a person like me, when I find housing like this I'm stuck, I'm staying, there is no reason for me to leave unless I hit the lottery or something fantastic like that, but low-income housing it definitely a necessity in Kalamazoo.”

People without homes and homeless advocates have been very vocal about a lack of affordable housing in Kalamazoo with protestors turning Bronson Park into a tent city.

Williams said, “I understand why they are there, because some of them are on a fixed income that's not enough income to get into anything.”

Based on a number of factors, including housing, grocery and utility prices.

A financial publishing firm ranked Kalamazoo the fourth cheapest city to live in the U.S., with the cost of living more than 20 percent below the national average.

A single mom with a job that pays minimum wage, Williams says Kalamazoo doesn't feel cheap.

Renovations will be done, one section at a time so current residents will be shuffled around until the entire project is in late 2019.