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The Corporatization of Rental Properties in Grand Rapids

March 15, 2017

Over the past decade, Grand Rapids has seen a shift in the housing market as it relates to rental properties.

First, the cost to rent in Grand Rapids has gone up considerably and in many cases the cost has doubled in the post 10 years. Many tenants we have spoken to have said that they can no longer afford the monthly rental costs, which averages between $800 – $1,000 per month. We are not talking about most of the newer development projects across the city, where rental costs are even higher, we are talking about the cost of rent in neighborhoods that have been around for the past 75 – 100 years. A neighborhood organizer with West Grand Neighborhood, which is on the near westside, said at a Grand Rapids Homes for All event last July that she has seen rent double in the past five years for working class families that can no longer afford to live in that neighborhood.

The second major factor impacting rental properties in Grand Rapids has been the shift in ownership. What has been happening in Grand Rapids, like in many cities across the country, is that larger property management companies are buying up property as investments in the changing housing markets. Just a few decades ago, more of the rental properties in Grand Rapids were owned and operated by local landlords and property management entities. Now we are seeing the emergence of corporate landlords. Companies, often based outside of Michigan, are buying up properties throughout Grand Rapids because of the profitability in the housing market.

For instance, while working on some research for the Grand Rapids Tenant Union, we came across numerous properties in the Garfield Park neighborhood area that are owned by property management companies in Texas, Colorado, California and Illinois. One company in particular, stood out, a company called RDG Fund – 5 LTH LLC.

RDG Fund – 5 LTH LLC, according to the Grand Rapids City parcel map lists the company as based out of Chicago. The business was registered in Illinois by William Rudnick, who has two other businesses registered under his name in Chicago. Rudnick works for DLA Piper, which is a global law firm representing Fortune 500 companies. RDG Fund – 5 LTH LLC owns at least 6 rental properties in the Garfield Park neighborhood area.

Another rental property we came across while doing research, was listed as being owned by People Space LLC. The address for People Space LLC is 838 Cherry St Se in Grand Rapids, which happens to be the address of American Realty. However, unless people knew where to look, People Space LLC seems to be a stand alone small business, when in fact, they are part of a company that manages roughly 250 properties in the greater Grand Rapids area.

These are some of the complex forces that are behind the gentrification of Grand Rapids and these are the obstacles that working class individuals and families are facing when attempting to rent in the area.

Earlier we mentioned that we were doing research for the Grand Rapids Tenant Union, which is part of the group Grand Rapids Homes for All. The Tenant Union has only been around for a few months and is attempting to organize those who rent to fight against the rising cost of rent and the corporatization of the housing market in Grand Rapids.

The Grand Rapids Tenant Union meets monthly and is open to anyone who is a renter in Grand Rapids. They work on promoting renters rights and demonstrating the kind of power tenants can have when they are organized and unified to fight for housing justice in Grand Rapids.

Their next meeting is tomorrow night, Thursday, March 16 at 6pm at the Garfield Park Neighborhood Association. For more information go to this link. If you are unable to attend this meeting, you can contact the Grand Rapids Tenant Union by sending an e-mail to info@grhomesforall.com. 

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