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New fund aims to help affordable housing need in Grand Rapids

New fund aims to help affordable housing need in Grand Rapids
Posted at 8:32 PM, Sep 13, 2021

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — After years of discussion, the city of Grand Rapids is set to move forward with its affordable housing fund.

On Tuesday the Grand Rapids City Commission is set to vote on two resolutions that would create the "Grand Rapids Affordable Housing Fund" and list the Grand Rapids Community Foundation as its fiduciary.

“This is a really important moment,” said Eric DeLong, deputy city manager. “We think we’ve got a good framework here. We’ve sustained, maintained, and maybe even enhanced the role.”

The proposed “Grand Rapids Affordable Housing Fund” policy would create an 11-member board that is tasked with investing dollars and creating programs that help low and moderate income residents.

According to a draft, the board will be appointed. Members would consist of:

  • Three appointed one from each ward nominated by their city commission
  • One appointed by the mayor
  • One appointed by the city manager, who could also serve in the capacity
  • The Grand Rapids Housing Commission executive director will be a member
  • Six members will be selected through the city’s appointment on committees

The board’s duties would be wide-ranging, but aim to create a lasting impact for residents. Examples include income-qualified homeowner assistance grants that pay for repairs and incentives for affordable developments through subsidized city fees and gap-financing. Members would also be responsible for making recommendations related to developments and applying and accepting funds related to their programming.

“I think in the end it’ll be a variety of strategies that help move affordable housing forward in the community,” said DeLong.

Appointments will likely take place this fall with the hopes that members will be ready to begin their work early next year. DeLong says he’d like the board to make recommendations on the best ways to use $5 million in American Rescue Plan funds that have already been designated for affordable housing as part of their first project.

The idea for the Grand Rapids Affordable Housing Fund dates back to 2015, but three years later, in 2018, the city paused its plans after the Kent County Board of Commissioners voted to de-commission its land bank program, which was a key part of the original strategy.

An initial investment of $875,000 would be paid by the city to create the fund. The fund will operate with a target goal of $25 million by 2025. Service fees from already completed developments, unallocated city property sales, foundation donations, and other partnerships would help raise the remaining amount.

“We think that overall there might be $1 billion or more dollars of housing investment required over the next 10 years and so this is one more way to help spur that and a way to fill gaps that the private sector or the public sector can’t meet in other ways,” DeLong said.

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