Grand Rapids Property Management company makes low-income tenants disposable
In an example of solid journalism, Grand Rapids Press reporter Jim Harger’s article in Thursday’s paper, investigates the property management company Eenhoorn LLC’s efforts to push low-income tenants out in favor of making larger profits.
However, it should be noted that the GR Press article was the not the first to report on this matter. Nick Manes, writing for MiBiz had written about the very same topic two month’s earlier. Courthouse News Service also reported on the issue in early January of this year, thus making the Grand Rapids Press story seem a bit late.
John Smith, a lawyer with Legal Aid of West Michigan, has taken the case of Kari Thompson, a tenant who moved into loft apartments at 26 Sheldon Blvd SE in downtown Grand Rapids.
The Grand Rapids Press article states:
According to a paper trail unearthed by Smith and other Legal Aid lawyers, Eenhoorn bought ownership control of the properties and loaned them money backed by mortgages. The entities that held the mortgages took the properties back through a legal process called “deed in lieu of foreclosure” when the properties fell behind on the mortgages.
The foreclosures allowed Eenhoorn to get out of the final 15 years of its 30-year obligation to provide low-income housing at the properties, said Smith, who discovered the foreclosures while representing a low-income and disabled resident of The Lofts, a downtown Grand Rapids apartment project at 26 Sheldon Blvd. SE.
Kari Thompson is the plaintiff in a case against Eenhoorn LLC, where Thompson filed a complaint about how they were treating her. You can read the 28-page case file here.
Eenhoorn LLC has engaged in the same practice at other properties they own in at least three states, according to the lawyer with Legal Aid of West Michigan. On top of that, Eenhoorn has demonstrated that it puts profits over people, when a HUD audit revealed that the property management company was engaged in “Equity Skimming.”
It should also be noted that the lawyer representing Eenhoorn in this dispute, is Nyal Deems, the former Mayor of East Grand Rapids and now working for the law firm of Varnum. In addition, Deems was the face of the One Kent Coalition, a private sector group that was attempting to change the structure of government in West Michigan, a change that would benefit those involved in the campaign, such as Dick & Betsy DeVos, Peter Seechia and others that make up the local power structure.
While Eenhoorn has engaged in this kind of tactic against other working class tenants in the past, the recent case can be directly tied to the dramatic change in the housing market in Grand Rapids over the past decade.
We have heard from numerous tenants and from community organizers that rent has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, making it impossible for people to afford the increased rental costs. Many people have been forced to leave Grand Rapids and move to Kentwood or Wyoming, where the housing market is not as expensive as it is in Grand Rapids.
Another technique that landlords and property management companies have been encourage to pursue is to convert their apartments into Vacation Rentals or Airbnb. A workshop was offered at the recent Rental Property Owners Association held in Grand Rapids at the convention center in February. Landlords and Property Management companies know that they can get top dollar in the current market, thus leaving out thousands of working class families and individuals like Kari Thompson.