Skip to content

False solutions and the housing crisis: Why groups like Housing Next in Kent County are a danger to a movement for housing justice

February 19, 2023

Last week, MLive posted a story with the headline, Grand Rapids, Kent County need 34,699 new housing units by 2027. Can it be done? 

The article begins by stating: 

The housing gap in Grand Rapids and Kent County has jumped 56%, with an estimated 34,699 new units needed by 2027 to meet projected population growth, a new study released by the group Housing Next shows.

This MLive article is based on a gathering that was hosted by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, which involved a few government officials, Chamber members, but mostly developers. At that meeting both government officials and developers lauded the importance of growth for Grand Rapids and Kent County, but ignored the realities of the current housing crisis. 

Central to this story was the Housing Next study. If people are not aware, Housing Next is an entity that was essentially created by the Chamber of Commerce, primarily as a way to insert themselves into the housing discussion and to influence housing policy.

The “solution” to the current housing crisis, according to Housing Next, involves local government, developers and non-profits. The fact of the matter is, Housing Next offers no real solution to the housing crisis, only the same old model, the market. This is not a solution or maybe more aptly named a false solution. This is because under a market system, housing is nothing more than a commodity that can be bought and solid to make profits. For the Chamber and those sectors of society who believe in the market, housing is not a fundamental human right.  Housing within a market economy, particularly home ownership, is for those who can afford it, which leaves out millions of people in the US alone. 

If you want to understand who is really behind the Housing Next effort, along with the ideological framework they operate under, just look at the list of “community partners” in the graphic above.

The market-based solution that Housing Next is suggesting doesn’t even make sense within a market context. If those who are committed to a market economy, those who want to see homes being purchased and apartments being rented, then they have to recognize that people need to make enough money in order to purchase a home or pay the rental costs that the market dictates. This would require that individuals and families wouldn’t have to earn enough money to pay a mortgage or cover the monthly cost of rent. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, people need to earn $20.02 an hour to afford the average cost of rent in Grand Rapids. Not only are there thousands of people in Grand Rapids which DO NOT make $20 an hour, the community partners that Housing Next listed above has fought for decades against an increase in the minimum wage in Michigan, which is currently $10.10 an hour. So, you see, those who want to use a market-based solution to the current housing crisis, don’t even want to play by the rules of the market, which would pay people wages that would allow them to afford a home mortgage or monthly rental costs.

Last month, GRIID posted an article that critiqued how the City of Grand Rapids was viewing the issue of how to address the rising number of unhoused people in this city. In that article we identified several tactics to address the current housing crisis, including:

  • Paying people a livable wage, which right now would be $25 an hour minimum
  • Reducing the wealth gap in Kent County, where there are over 600 millionaires, but 25% of the population subjected to poverty.
  • Government regulated rent control
  • The creation of Tenant Unions
  • Stop the influence peddling by Real Estate and Rental Property Associations, especially during election cycles, as we documented in 2022. 
  • Re-direct part of the massive US Military Budget ($858 Billion for 2023) and use it to provide housing for people, particularly the most marginalized communities.
  • Practice Radical Hospitality, particularly in the faith communities. Imagine home many people who are currently housing insecure, could benefit from the resources and hospitality of the faith communities. 
  • Limit large corporate property management companies or real estate investors from operating in Grand Rapids/Kent County.
  • End government subsidies/tax breaks for developers.
  • Promote cooperative housing and Community Land Trusts.

There are lots of other possible tactics and strategies that could be developed to address the current housing crisis, but we need a social movement to confront the current market driven housing system and to implement non-market housing solutions. We cannot be fooled by groups like Housing Next, nor can we allow them to continue to dictate the narrative about how to address the current housing crisis. 

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: