SWMI DSA Statement On The Hiring of Mary Balkema as Homes for All Director

SWMI-DSA endorsed and mobilized support for the Homes for All millage in Kalamazoo County that was passed by voters in 2020. The eight year millage is expected to generate nearly $50 million dollars to be used for affordable housing throughout Kalamazoo County. Homes for All provides a tremendous opportunity to put people over profits while centering equity and justice.

As promised, our chapter is following the implementation of this millage. Our chapter opposes the recent hiring of Mary Balkema, former Kalamazoo County treasurer, as Housing Director responsible for implementing Homes for All and calls for her resignation. 

The Housing Director should share the values and vision of Homes for All. Even more, the position should be filled by someone who knows firsthand the struggles many Kalamazoo county residents face and deeply understands the racial, social and economic injustices that persist in housing.

Mary Balkema does not align with the values of Homes for All. She advocated against protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. During her tenure as county treasurer, she was sued for housing discrimination on the basis of race and disability. As a Trump delegate, she has aligned herself with public figures who discriminate and exclude.

In October 2020, our housing working group began circulating a petition that read: “The funds generated by the Kalamazoo County “Homes for All” millage should be used to house those residents with the greatest housing needs. Communities of color, LGBTQIA+ people, people with disabilities and others marginalized by past and current policies should be prioritized. Funds should not be used to enrich private landlords and for-profit housing developers.”

We must push forward this vision in spite of this appalling hiring decision. As a chapter of the biggest democratic-socialist organization in the United States, we believe that housing is a human right. The current housing crisis represents a deep relationship between capitalism, racism and other forms of domination. The solutions to this crisis, both locally and nationally, must meet human needs and not profit.

SWMI DSA invites supporters of the Home of All millage to our Housing Group planning meeting on Monday, 7PM (2/22). Please register for the call here.

Additionally, we encourage all those opposed to Balkema’s hiring to voice their opinion at the special meeting of the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners, Tuesday 4PM (2/23). Link for joining: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84077561759