Economic Development, Government, and Real Estate

Grand Rapids approves affordable housing recommendations

January 31, 2018
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Grand Rapids City Hall Kent County Administration La Grande Vitesse Calder Plaza
“La Grande Vitesse” by Alexander Calder stands in Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids, in front of Grand Rapids City Hall, top, and the Kent County Administration building, bottom. Photo via fb.com

The Grand Rapids City Commission has approved four policy recommendations aimed at improving housing affordability and choice in the city.

By unanimous vote last night, the commission approved four out of 11 of the previously presented Housing NOW! recommendations following months of work by the Grand Rapids Housing Advisory Committee.

The Housing Advisory Committee included nearly 30 community members, affordable housing advocates, housing developers, city staff and city commissioners.

First Ward Commissioner Jon O’Connor served as committee chair.

“I am grateful to everyone who contributed to advancing these recommendations to the point of approval and implementation,” O’Connor said.

“We expect these policy changes will positively affect the housing supply in Grand Rapids and encourage greater investment in the types of housing needed in the city.”

Eric DeLong, interim city manager, said the recommendations reflect a history of collaboration.

“Each of the approved policy changes emphasize the city’s role in furthering the housing priorities of its citizens through collaboration with both private and nonprofit development partners,” DeLong said.

“Through these policies, the city and its many community partners will have a much greater impact than any entity acting alone.”

Housing Advisory Committee’s four approved recommendations

Taxation of assisted lower-income housing ordinance

Rental housing developments serving low-income households are eligible to receive a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, property tax exemption. This city ordinance was amended to allow property owners of PILOT projects to reduce their annual service fees from 4 percent to 1 percent, while contributing an additional 2 percent to a city fund for additional affordable housing initiatives.

Neighborhood Enterprise Zones, or NEZ, policy amendment

Amendment of this policy reduces the base level of the tax incentive to nine years with a maximum benefit of 15 years if commitments to housing affordability and other criteria are met.

Voluntary Equitable Development Agreements, or VEDA, policy

Creation of this policy allows three-party agreements between the city, an investor and a community-based organization. The purpose of a VEDA for a development project is to encourage advancement of community needs concerning issues such as housing, employment and transportation.

Property partnership policy

Creation of this city commission policy allows the city to acquire property interests to increase the availability of affordable housing in Grand Rapids.

Housing NOW!

The Housing NOW! initiative is built from work started by the 2015 Great Housing Strategies — a community planning initiative that included more than 200 residents and three city commissioners.

Next steps

Additional Housing NOW! policy recommendations are expected to be brought before the city commission for consideration in 2018.

More information about the Housing Advisory Committee, the Housing NOW! recommendations and how the community can participate is available online.

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