Economic Development and Nonprofits

Grant boosts neighborhood revitalization on city’s west side

January 22, 2016
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An affordable housing campaign on the city’s west side is getting a boost from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

GRCF, which supports Kent County’s nonprofits and philanthropies in an effort to make social changes in the community, recently announced a $500,000 grant for Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, which has helped more than 400 families achieve homeownership in its more than 30 years of service, according to its website.

“It’s a significant grant for us,” said Laurie Craft, a program director at GRCF. “Over the last few years we’ve been receiving anecdotal reports on affordable housing on the west side. We considered all the types of options that families are going to need on the west side, and this seemed like an opportunity to be really intentional about one type of housing.”

GRCF’s new grant is intended to support Habitat Kent’s strategy of new home construction, as well as house rehab and repairs in the west-side neighborhoods. “Our Building Blocks strategy will continue to impact neighborhoods by serving 120 families in its next phase, including building new homes, major home revitalizations and critical home repairs,” reads Habitat Kent’s website.

The Building Blocks campaign, which started in 2013, is a neighborhood revitalization campaign that is attempting to create affordable housing in Grand Rapids through a holistic approach.

“Because of the west side’s economic growth and rising property costs, the need for quality and affordable housing is crucial,” said Bri McKee, Habitat Kent executive director. “Our neighborhood-centric approach builds upon existing momentum and concentrates our efforts for maximum neighborhood impact.”

The grant money will go toward funding Habitat Kent’s work on the northwest and southwest sides of Grand Rapids, particularly in the area surrounding Challenge Scholars schools, which provides students with support as early as sixth grade and promises a free college or trade school education upon graduation. Habitat Kent’s plan is to work on the houses in this area, allowing low-income residents to be able to thrive in this district.

The grant will fund about 14 home construction properties in the Challenge Scholars area in the Harrison Park and Westwood Middle School district, Craft said. Overall, there will be 22 houses rehabilitated and about 98 additional houses will receive repairs, she said.

“I think there’s been a lot of conversation in the community about affordable housing. We have a lot of people on the ground right now trying to figure out how many cannot afford re-leasing because of rent increases,” Craft said.

“(We’re doing this) because we want to make sure those students who start as Challenge Scholars have an opportunity to finish as Challenge Scholars. They want to make sure people who want to live in the neighborhood can stay in the neighborhood.”

Habitat Kent plans to work to elevate “the real estate market, encourage diversified investment for equitable neighborhood development, and assemble the real estate opportunities that will allow residents to implement their self-determined goals,” according to a press release.

“We are committed to ensuring that low-income people on Grand Rapids’ west side have access to affordable housing so everyone can benefit from the economic impact of urban development,” said Diana Sieger, GRCF president.

“Homeownership is an effective tool for stabilizing neighborhoods and creating more opportunity for all people in the area, and we’re thrilled to partner with Habitat Kent for more equitable development on the west side of Grand Rapids.”

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