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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.

Grand Rapids officials move on affordable housing

LINC mixed-use development in Southeast Grand Rapids.
File photo: LINC mixed-use development in southeast Grand Rapids.

Creating a housing advisory committee to deal with what commissioners are calling a housing crisis is one of four concrete strategies set by the Grand Rapids City Commission. First Ward Commissioner Jon O’Connor is likely to become one of the commissioners appointed to that committee.

“People’s incomes haven’t kept pace with the cost of housing and so we know that we have a limited pool of resources in the city which we hope to allocate to address some of these concerns to give people an opportunity to stay in their neighborhood and in the city.”

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said she wants the committee to be appointed within a week. One of the people she has already asked is Third Ward Commissioner David Allen who says removing red tape is another priority.

“The way we do zoning, the way we do planning, some of those things are very entrenched, so to change those is not easy. But, there’s definitely the will of the commission to make sure that happens.”

A third strategy is leveraging resources the city already has in the form of incentives. The fourth strategy is funding and using the recently created Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Commissioner O’Connor.

“We need to determine how to fund something and to what level before we can determine how we’re going to spend it or what we are going to spend it on.”

How to spend it is also a debate within the commission, with some suggesting incentives for mixed-income housing developments and others proposing vouchers for renters. What most agreed on is that the housing situation is an issue affecting those with the least the worst. Here’s Second Ward Commissioner and another likely member of the new housing committee Ruth Kelly.

“Housing is so basic to opportunity and we recognize that it’s infrastructure that we should protect in the city and that we need to be much more equitable in how we approach this problem.” 

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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