It’s no secret that there are problems at some hotels and motels in Battle Creek.
To improve conditions and reduce calls to law enforcement from these locations, the Battle Creek City Commission passed a new ordinance that will require property owners to have permits and comply with regulations limiting long-term stays.
For many of those living in hotels and motels, that starts a countdown clock for finding new accommodations.
The ordinance will limit stays to no more than 28 consecutive days, unless the room has a kitchenette. This restriction will go into effect Nov. 1, 2021.
To avoid evictions that will exacerbate the housing crisis, the city, local social service agencies and landlords will have to work together to overcome housing barriers.
“We really recognize that there is going to be some ongoing work related to access to housing that is going to need to happen in this community if we’re going to create any change,” said Marcie Gillette, community services director for the city of Battle Creek. “We really holistically have to work with our community partners to do this work.”
Working with community partners
Community Action Agency of South Central Michigan, a social service organization in Battle Creek, initially had concerns about the ordinance, but with the grace period for long-term residents, leaders feel there is time to get people the help they need.
“It would be quite a while before the actual enforcement took effect,” said Michelle Williamson, CEO of Community Action. “Also the city is going to be working with various community groups, too, as we identify clients that are in that situation.”
Working with hotel owners to identify people who need help and connect them with service agencies is a priority, Williamson said, especially while there’s money available from the federal government and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority due to COVID-19.
Educating landlords on what assistance is available for clients and exploring affordable housing projects will also be essential, Williamson said.
“There just needs to be a multi-prong approach because I think there’s a lot of different things that need to happen in order for there to be better solutions for the clients that are utilizing housing in this way,” Williamson said. “There is a lot of work to be done, but there’s a lot of people that care very much about having these situations move forward.”
It’s unclear how many people currently use a hotel as their primary residence, according to Gillette, and the city is reaching out to owners for information on how many people stay at their properties long term. Gathering information will help officials understand the scope of the problem.
When the ordinance was put up for a vote during City Commission’s Oct. 6 meeting, several commissioners expressed concern that these steps had not already been taken, but Gillette said efforts are now in progress with the help of community agencies.
As part of a community collaboration group, the SHARE Center has offered to do door-to-door outreach with hotel