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Mutually Inclusive
A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

National Study Backs Claims of Rent, Income Disparity


Rent and income have not risen at the same rate in the last 64 years according to a national study.

Adjusting for inflation, apartmentlist.com says rents across the country have gone up by 60% since 1960. Real household income, on the other hand, has only gone up 18%. Grand Rapids Homes for All co-founder, Jeff Smith says in some Grand Rapids neighborhoods rents have doubled in only the past five years.

“So the question we ask folks is that, if rent is doubling, have your wages doubled in the last five years. And of course, for most people, for most working-class people in Grand Rapids and Kent County, that’s just not the case.”

The study says nationally, about half of all people renting now are “cost-burdened,” meaning at least 30% of their household income goes to pay the rent.  

“Now there’s a reinvestment in core cities, but the beneficiaries of that investment aren’t necessarily working-class folks or communities of color.”

One option that has helped in other states is off the table in Michigan. That’s implementing policies that regulate rent price, also known as rent control. Michigan Act 226 of 1988 prohibits local governments from implementing any “ordinance or resolution that would have the effect of controlling the amount of rent charged.” So what are other options?

“We’re also looking at trying to encourage more alternative forms of housing, which might mean looking at more of a co-op as well as looking at land trusts to provide some legal protection that would prevent the kind of development taking place that would basically displace people.”

The City of Grand Rapids is looking to establish a housing trust fund, but would it require tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars  to meet local demand.  

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