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The Unaffordability of Grand Rapids

May 11, 2016

On Monday, MLive ran yet another story about new housing development projects in Grand Rapids, entitled, High-end, micro apartment projects up for tax breaks.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 7.41.04 AM

The brief article looks at four proposed housing development projects seeks approval from the city of Grand Rapids, along with the possibility of tax breaks for each project. The four projects are: a 616 Lofts project on Quimby NE; Maplegrove Development LLC project on Market Avenue; Green Cane Property ( in conjunction with Orion Construction) project on Wealthy in Uptown, and; a Third Coast Development project in the Firestone building on Jefferson SE, near Fulton.

However, the brief MLive article focuses mostly on the Green Cane Property project at the site of the old McDonald’s on Wealthy SE and their micro apartments. The only source cited is a representative with Green Cane Property. In addition, the article does mention that the Grand Rapids City Commission would be deciding on all four of these projects at their May 10 meeting and whether or not to offer tax breaks for each of the projects.

According to the City Commission Agenda Packet for their May 10 meeting, the Green Cane Property project will be getting significant tax breaks. There was no additional information from said City Commission packet on tax breaks for the other three housing development projects. 

The MLive article states at one point, “Grand Rapids commissioners have been exploring ways to encourage development of more “affordable” housing, with rents below market rate. Recent ordinance changes include the addition of parking incentives for construction of “micro-units” that are 475 square-feet or smaller.”

The question should be asked, what exactly is it that the City Commissioners are doing to explore and implement ways to make affordable housing a reality in Grand Rapids? The same sentiments were shared during an April 12 City Commission meeting, a meeting where they unanimously approved a $300,000 per condo development project. At that April 12 meeting every commissioner commenting on the need to increase affordable housing, but none of them offered up a plan on how to make affordable housing a reality. Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 7.44.46 AM

Everyone of the four housing development projects mentioned in the MLive article will not be offering truly affordable housing options for individuals or families, like almost all of the new housing development announcements in recent months. Almost all of the housing options with these four development projects are listed as market rate, with the 616 Lofts project on Plainfield listing rental rates between $850 to $1,500 per month; the Maplegrove Development project on Market Ave. listing rental rates between $935 to $1,795 per month; the Third Coast Development project on Jefferson SE listing rental rates between $1,250 to $2,000; and the Green Care Property/Orion Construction project on Wealthy SE listing rental rates between $700 to $1,400 per month.

Someone making $10 an hour, which is the reality for thousands of people in the Grand Rapids area, equals $22,400 a year. The rate of the lowest rental cost of the four new projects is $700 per month for a micro apartment. Rent at such a location for one year is $8,400, over one-third of the income of someone making $10 an hour. A single person might be able to survive on that income, but not someone with children or those supporting other family members. Grand Rapids is quickly becoming a city that is unaffordable for thousands of working class individuals and families.

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