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Grand Rapids is the 2nd most beautiful and affordable city: Affordable for whom?

April 11, 2023

According to the highly astute publication, Travel & Leisure, Grand Rapids, Michigan ranks as the 2nd most beautiful and affordable city to live in the US.

The evidence that Travel & Leisure provides is the following: 

The following list — compiled using data from U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 to 2023 rankings, including the most affordable places to live in the U.S. and the best places to live in the U.S. — offers a collection of some of the dreamiest places to live in America that won’t break the bank. 

In its rankings, U.S. News & World Report evaluates the impact that cost of living, median monthly rent, median home price in relation to the national median, and quality of life have on a city, which generates a well-rounded figure for anyone looking to relocate.

As is the case with most of these best places to live is their use of averages, which is not an accurate reflection of the reality for thousands of families living in Grand Rapids. The question that always should be asked is, for whom is Grand Rapids an affordable city? According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, Grand Rapids has the highest wealth gap of any metropolitan area in the state of Michigan.

If one is looking at the average cost of rent in Grand Rapids, you can see a glaring contradiction around the issue of affordability. The National Low Income Housing Coalition provides excellent information on affordability of rent in all states, including Michigan, which you can find here The graphic below, provides a good summary of the average cost of rent and what people need to earn per hour to afford most rent. As you can see in the graphic, for those renting in Grand Rapids, you need to earn $20.02 an hour to afford the average rent. There are literally tens of thousands of individuals and families who do not make $20 an hour in Grand Rapids, yet developers keep creating housing that is un-affordable for so many people. 

I do volunteer work with the Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union and one of the most common messages we here from people who are tenants in this city is that they cannot afford to cost of rent, or that their rent is being raised once again, usually resulting in them having to move out.

Now, one of the most influential pro-business groups in Grand Rapids, the Right Place Inc., recently shared the Travel & Leisure post about Grand Rapids being the 2nd most beautiful and affordable place to live in the country. Thirty-five people shared that post, including the Mayor of Grand Rapids. However, no matter how many people actually believe these ridiculous rankings about which city is the safest or the most affordable, the reality is that for thousands of people and thousands of families in Grand Rapids, Beer City is NOT affordable. 

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