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Rep. Winnie Brinks hosts Affordable Housing Town Hall

In an effort to address the affordable housing crisis in Grand Rapids Michigan House Representative Winnie Brinks hosted a Town Hall yesterday evening at the Inner City Christian Federation.

“I think that this is a conversation that is really ripe to be had. Quite unintentionally we have been a victim of our success here in Grand Rapids," Rep. Brinks said. "We have a thriving city, we have nearly full employment, however there are people who have not benefited from that growth, and those are the folks that are being priced out of the housing market.”

Tuesday evening, Representative Brinks hosted a town hall at the Inner City Christian Federation to discuss the affordable housing crisis with the public. Prior to the event, Brinks told WGVU that for many living in the Grand Rapids area, the crisis translates to choosing which bills to pay, and which bills to ignore.

“One of the common things that happens when housing becomes unaffordable is other bills also suffer," Brinks said. "So people have a difficult time paying utilities or getting their car repaired. When we get to that point where those key expenses can’t be covered and pay rent, we end up with folks who can’t get to work, it becomes a huge barrier for success in employment, and that causes problems not only for business but obviously for families.”

Recently, Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom presented the City Commission with a number of proposals that address the affordable housing crisis. Those proposals came from the recommendations of the City Housing Advisory Committee.

Committee chair and City Commissioner Jon O’Conner joined Brinks at the Town Hall as a panelist. He says, while the crisis will take time to fix, local lawmakers on actively working on the problem.  

“From the cities perspective it’s important that folks know that we are paying attention and we are listening," O'Connor said. "And we are going to continue to make strides  to be a partner in this and listen to your concerns and try to do everything we can to make sure that there is additional opportunity in the future for more affordable housing.”

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, an individual must make nearly $21 an hour working a full-time job to afford a three-bedroom apartment at market rate in the Grand Rapids area -- far more than Michigan’s $8.90 minimum wage.

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