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Grand Rapids officials review future housing strategies

Downtown Grand Rapids
Rachel Kramer | CC BY 2.0

Recommendations out of a recent Grand Rapids housing report include supporting mixed-income neighborhoods and employer buy-in, as well as establishing an affordable housing trust.

Connie Bohatch is the city’s managing director of community services. 

She says 58 percent of renters in the city of Grand Rapids spend 30 percent or more on housing. She says just under a third of homeowners fall into that category as well.

That’s pared with a 90 percent increase in the value of new multi-family developments, and the lowest housing market inventory the city’s seen since 2000. 

Bohatch says the average hourly wage in Kent County was $11.28 in 2014. But $14.23 is the minimum needed to rent a two-bedroom apartment. 

“So putting that into some perspective, if you were paying $737 for rent, it would require a current minimum wage earner at $8.15 per hour, they’d have to work 70 hours per week," she says, "or have 1.7 wage earners working 40 hours per week in order to afford that rent.”

The city’s Great Housing Strategy was released last week and discussed on Tuesday by city officials.

The report proposes eight outcomes and more than 30 actions that can be taken to change the current housing picture.

Bohatch says those include encouraging mixed-income neighborhoods across the city and establishing a public housing trust at an initial funding level of $10 million.

It also includes employer participation – such as employer-assisted housing programs, live-work spaces and cooperative business models.

Creation of a housing consumer alliance and court eviction diversion pilot program were also discussed.

Several recommendations deal with zoning regulations, which meet further review at a planning commission meeting later this month.

You can find the full report at grcity.us.

Hilary is a General Assignment and Enterprise reporter for WGVU Public Media. She joined WGVU in September 2014 after several years of experience as a local news reporter, anchor and photojournalist in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties. She's also worked as a financial and business reporter and audio field producer.
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