Editorial

Market rate rents far exceed market pay levels in region

January 8, 2016
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Grand Rapids Business Journal’s reporting on the problems associated with market-rate rent prices and affordability provides additional information as the Grand Rapids City Commission reviews and revises its Great Housing Strategies plan, adopted in mid-December as a work in progress.

What the city can’t address, however, is the pay scale in the Greater Grand Rapids area, even as wages have a significant impact on the Great Housing Strategies plan.

The Business Journal reported at grbj.com on a compensation data report from Forbes/Payscale that placed Grand Rapids among the worst regions for worker compensation among the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S., and like every other metropolitan community in the country, pay rates are flat, not up, for employees who hold at least a bachelor’s degree.

The compensation report measured not just early career pay but mid-career and median pay for those holding at least a bachelor’s degree. Add to that dismal (though likely unsurprising) report the fact that the Grand Rapids region continues to show much lower education rates than other regions, even in comparison to other Michigan cities like Detroit and Ann Arbor.

The information offered by Forbes/Payscale must be considered as city planning continues, and can serve in the development and renovation of affordable multi-family and single-family residential units. It is an issue that is unlikely to be resolved by the anticipated regional growth across several business sectors; the entrenched wage and education issues can’t be addressed at a pace fast enough to make a significant difference over the coming decades.

Michigan Future Inc. President Lou Glazer noted in a November economic analysis report: “Per capita income is the best single measure of a state’s or region’s economic well being … because employment earnings are the predominant engine of long-term sustainable growth in the standard of living.”

Glazer’s analysis also has shown that of 52 regions with populations of one million or more, Metro Grand Rapids is 48th in net employment earnings per capita, 52nd in proportion of wages from high education industries, and 34th in the proportion of adults with a four-year degree.

City planning must take into account the facts rather than the often proffered “vision” through rose-colored glasses.

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