ICCF working to buy 177 homes for affordable housing

ICCF preparing to buy 177 homes in Grand Rapids and Lansing for affordable housing

The Inner City Christian Federation in Grand Rapids. (June 28, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS. Mich. (WOOD) — A plan is in the works to help increase the number of affordable housing options in Grand Rapids.

The Inner City Christian Federation is waiting on approval of a purchase agreement to buy 177 homes in the Grand Rapids and Lansing areas. ICCF says many of those homes are on Grand Rapids’ southeast side.

“One of the reasons why we’re buying is because we believe that we can help stabilize the rents on these homes,” ICCF CEO Ryan VerWys said.

For more than 40 years, VerWys said, the nonprofit has refurbished and managed homes in neighborhoods that don’t have a lot of resources. But the housing and rental market has changed dramatically since 2011, so it’s looking at new options.

“It’s a perfect storm really where we’re seeing investment come in and rents go up at the same time as federal resources are dwindling for this kind of work, VerWys said.

The program’s goal is to give more people a place they can afford so they won’t be pushed out by an exceedingly competitive market.

“You might be seeing your rent go up sometimes like $500 a month and your income’s not keeping pace. You often times have to find a new neighborhood to live in,” VerWys said.

Barbara Hodges, who lives on the city’s southeast side, said that’s the type of situation she’s in.

“I only got $400 something a month and the landlord wanted to go up higher than that,” Hodges said.

She and fellow Grand Rapids residents Nicole Morse and Maggie Gates each struggled to find affordable housing in Grand Rapids. They’re perfect examples of who the ICCF is trying to help.

“If I didn’t have Section 8, I wouldn’t be able to afford my housing and I would be homeless again,” Morse said.

“It’s just not right for us to live the way we’re living,” Gates added.

The Grand Rapids Housing Commission owns and manages 950 affordable housing units. 3,290 people use the voucher program it administers.

“We’re talking all of the demographics — elderly are having a hard time finding (affordable housing), disabled and single-family, some women with children,” Housing Commission Executive Director Carlos Sanchez said.

Sanchez gave 24 Hour News 8 a breakdown of what average rent costs look like in Grand Rapids.

>>PDF: Rent and utility costs chart

“So two-bedroom the fair market rent is $823,” Sanchez pointed out.

That is much higher than what the three women, all of whom receive some kind of assistance in paying their bills, can afford.

“I love ICCF and Section 8. If it wasn’t for them, there’d be a lot more homeless … than there is right now,” Morse said.

Over the next 60 to 90 days, ICCF will be inspecting the homes it’s looking to buy and lining up financing to close the deal.

The Housing Commission is also partnering with nonprofits to develop five additional housing programs in Grand Rapids. Those housing units are in various stages of construction and should open within the next year. Out of 285 new units, the commission will provide housing assistance to 57.