LINC Up initiative provides multifaceted impact

March 17, 2017
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The essential successes of neighborhood improvements in Grand Rapids has become so well understood most every accolade almost sounds ubiquitous. Indeed, it is not, and one need only check the rear-view mirror of 2008-11, when the housing financial meltdown ravaged hard-fought gains made ever so slowly in the previous decade. Small businesses, mom-and-pop business and single proprietor businesses are the heart of neighborhoods (like schools) and many offer first-time jobs to young neighborhood residents. They also represent the soul of every business owner.

LINC Up, initially formed in 2000, has walked with community residents through those fires and strengthened its ability to bring neighborhood residents together to provide grass-roots, collaborative plans for improving each neighborhood for which they work, from housing, businesses and neighborhood initiatives. The Business Journal is reporting on a new LINC Up initiative that provides another economic catalyst — so dynamic it is multifaceted in impact: education, the lack of affordable housing and the crippling shortage of housing construction workers.

In partnership with Grand Rapids Community College, the agency program will provide hands-on experience for construction students while building affordable housing in southeast Grand Rapids under the watchful eyes of local contractors. The job-training program provides entry-level wages to the students. It also cuts the costs of home construction, keeping sale prices affordable.

The best aspect? The majority of those students live in the neighborhood or within the ZIP code. LINC Up Executive Director Jeremy DeRoo also notes the program addresses the large disparity of the number of minority students working in construction in Grand Rapids. DeRoo said although the construction industry is one of the quickest growing in the city, just 2 percent of the workforce are people of color.

The Business Journal notes the Michigan State Housing Development Authority will subsidize the construction of four homes, with additional support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Opportunity Resource Fund. But unlike most short-lived, state-funded projects, this effort provides sustainability for its teaching moments — both students and residents alike. Further, the partnership will be expanded through the Kent County Land Bank Authority to build 15 additional homes.

DeRoo told the Business Journal, “It can’t be done by any one person or organization — it takes everyone coming together.”

The ability to do so underscores reason for comment and accolade. 

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