Recipient-appointed board selects new owner for requisitioned affordable homes

LANSING — Nine affordable single-family homes tied to a late city official and housing attorney will soon have a new nonprofit owner, but the decision-making process that led to the transfer drew criticism from a Black-run agency that was also vying for the properties.

On June 30th is a predominantly white six-member board selected by attorney Thomas Woods Housing partnership in the capital regiona Lansing-based nonprofit focused on accessing affordable housing in the greater Lansing area to take ownership of the homes.

The houses were previously operated by One church, one familya local non-profit housing association once run by the deceased Joan Jackson-JohnsonLansing’s longtime director of Human Relations and Community Services.

Derrick “DJ” Knox Jr., whose nonprofit Advancement Corporation applied to purchase the homes, has claimed that the decision to transfer the homes to CAHP was preordained and did not take racial justice into account.

The homes came under the supervision of Woods as recipient after a court stripped One Church One Family of that role over questions about the use of grant funds.

Woods said he did not research the racial traits of applicants for the homes. Rather, he intended that the board’s decision should be based on which entity members felt they were best suited to take over the nine homes.

“I’ve focused on affordable housing and the compliance that affordable housing requires, and that takes a track record,” Woods said.

The second applicant appealed the decision

In emails sent to the State Journal, Knox criticized Woods’ rationale for selecting CAHP. He noticed that the appointed board members, with the exception of himself, were made up almost entirely in white. Knox is black.

He also claimed that the process didn’t match the latest HUD Stock Action Plan.

“Without equity, we would never be on a fair playing field,” Knox told the State Journal. “To realize, or not even consider, justice in it means we don’t care about another group that has been marginalized and disenfranchised for centuries. We’ll just stick with what I want.”

Knox suggested that the bankruptcy administration process was an example of how racial disparities in home ownership exist in the United States.

“This is a prime example of why there are huge disparities in ownership when it comes to (Black, Indigenous, Colored) communities,” Knox said in an email to Woods. “People like you are clinging to a broken system that doesn’t even consider justice or equality in housing.”

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The recipient’s process

The properties, which are collectively worth more than $1 million, have been under Woods’ oversight since 2020 after city attorneys accused One Church One Family of violating their $243,333 contract with the city, by failing to document how it spent grant funds. Lansing repaid more than $233,000 in federal grants after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development concluded that the city mismanaged the funds during Jackson Johnson’s tenure.

The court stripped the homes of One Church One Family and placed them under receivership in 2019 — a court process in which courts appoint a body to take control of the property. The following year, Ingham County Judge Joyce Draganchuk tapped into Woods to oversee the properties and find a permanent owner.

An application process last year yielded two applicants: Capital Area Housing Partnership and Advancement Corporation. Woods then delegated the final decision to the board.

“Because it’s affordable housing and I’ve been dealing with the people in the community who subsidize affordable housing — namely the Lansing Housing Commission and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority — I decided it would be good,” Woods said. “There was a debate about whether I should sell the houses…it seemed more sensible to give the houses away to an entity that could continue to operate them as affordable housing.”

OCOF Insolvency Code | pdf

The Executive Director of CAHP was a member of the Board of Directors Rawley Van FossenKnox, Susan Cancro, executive director of Advent House Ministries, Denise Paquette, director of Allen Neighborhood Center Outreach & Engagement, and Michael Hudson, family manager of One Church One.

After several board meetings, Woods indicated in a June 25 email that CAHP would receive the properties.

“CAHP was a more mature 501(c)(3) charity with extensive experience in owning and managing many affordable housing,” Woods said, citing the nonprofit’s work with MSHDA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and LHC .

Established in 1992, CAHP’s résumé includes ownership of nine separate developments totaling more than 450 units in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties, Van Fossen said. The HUD-certified nonprofit organization also serves thousands of residents through housing, housing and financial advice, down payment assistance, and provides additional resources for the homeless and those in insecure housing throughout the region.

Founded in 2020, the Advancement Corporation — the nonprofit wing of the Metro Lansing Poor People’s Campaign — supports underserved people in Lansing in a variety of ways, including job training, a full-service community center, food distribution and more.

Knox said they are expanding their affordable housing work, including the renovation of a 58-unit transitional housing complex and several single-family homes. Her proposal pointed to a partnership with the Eastside Community Action Center.

More:Joan Jackson Johnson, Lansing Advocate for the Vulnerable, has died aged 73

More:US Attorney Demanded Records From Joan Jackson Johnson’s Charity; The city must pay back $234,000 in HUD grants

Ensuring opportunities remain

The transfer is being worked out with city and state agencies, and ownership could be transferred within the next three to four months, he said Van Fossen.

Van Fossen said the preservation of the homes – which aim to help very low-income families with a history of homelessness – aligns with the organization’s mission.

“Here at Capital Area Housing Partnership, we own, develop and partner with agencies to ensure there is affordable housing here in our community,” said Van Fossen. “And so we wanted to continue the legacy that Dr. (Jackson) Johnson created in partnership when I was there with the (Ingham County) Land Bank almost 15 years ago … to make sure these homes, the families that live in them, right now, you don’t have to worry about these opportunities no longer exist.”

Jackson Johnson retired from her city role and also left the OFOC Board of Directors in February 2020. She had been placed on paid administrative leave a month earlier after an outside audit found her department had made grants to charities to which she and her family volunteered. She died on January 29 of this year at the age of 73.

Her attorney at the time claimed there was no evidence she benefited and no criminal charges had been filed.

Contact reporter Jared Weber at 517-582-3937 or [email protected]

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