In the booming Grand Rapids, many black residents have missed the city’s comeback

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“We saw that this has a unique impact on our color neighbors. Our older neighbors are being displaced by the gentrification of the neighborhoods. “

As in other regions of the country and nation, experts blame an affordable housing crisis.

City-wide, Rents climbed by almost 40 percent The 13th largest such increase among US metropolises in the last ten years, according to the Self Financial group.

In Easttown, two-bedroom apartments now cost $ 1,400 or more a month, while homes in the area sell for $ 400,000 and more.

Nearly 25,000 Tenants and homeowners in Grand Rapids paid more than 30 percent of their incomes for housing in 2019 – a threshold for what is considered affordable and able to cover other basic expenses like food, childcare and transportation, according to Housing Next, an advocacy group for affordable housing in western Michigan.

Housing Next estimates that the city is more than 5,000 rental units below demand, and Kent and nearby Ottawa counties will need 37,000 more units in all price ranges over the next five years to meet demand – about a tenth of that at cheaper affordable housing.

“It will take more than $ 2.5 billion in investment over the next five years to make that happen,” Ryan Kilpatrick, Executive Director of Housing Next told Bridge.

Kilpatrick called this “an outlandish” sum that can hardly be reached.

Across Michigan, according to calculations by the Michigan Association of United Ways, 1.5 million ─ or 38 percent ─ of households in 2019 struggled to afford basic needs such as housing, childcare, food, health care and transportation. While these numbers are the latest available, they do not reflect the added stress low-income households are experiencing in paying for housing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

And those economic problems hit Michigan Black’s households even harder since 63 percent struggled to be able to afford the essentials for life in their community.

“I see affordable housing as one of our biggest challenges in the city of Grand Rapids,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss told Bridge. “There is clearly a disproportionate influence on color communities.”

Bliss noted that the city has taken steps to eradicate inequality, including Social housing Projects funded by federal tax credits and a newly established Fund for affordable housing with a goal of $ 25 million in funding by 2025. Bliss said the city has also changed its zone code to Allow multi-family houses on residential corner plots and single-storey residential units in commercial areas.

Bliss added that the city is considering starting its own land banking agency to promote affordable housing resolution in 2019 by the Kent County Land Bank Authority.

“We’re still looking at what else we can do,” said Bliss.

The black family exodus comes as the city as a whole is experiencing a resurgence in both reputation and population and is regularly on lists The best places to live for young people and anchoring one of the few regions in Michigan that is growing.

Kent County is now a travel destination and has reversed its exodus of young college graduates to cities like Chicago. From 2000 to 2009, the county lost more than 600 college graduates to Cook County, Illinois – but more than twice as many in the past decade.

And while this can fuel upper-income growth, aspiring black entrepreneurs continue to face similar obstacles as black households, experts say, in part due to the aftermath of decades of real estate Redlining that denied black residents the ability to buy or rent houses in white neighborhoods.

“It all has to do with the marginalization of African Americans, mainly due to redlining,” said Jamiel Robinson, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses.

“Other cultures generate wealth by using their homes. Homeownership was one of those ways to get wealth that African Americans were denied and used to go to college or start a business. “

Nationwide, 44 percent of black families are homeowners, compared with 74 percent of white families.

This gap explains why the average net worth of white families was nearly ten times that of black families – $ 171,000 in 2016 compared to $ 17,150, according to the Brookings Institution, a progressive think tank.

And while the federal government banned discrimination in the mortgage industry more than 50 years ago, there is evidence that many Michigan Black loan applicants are still facing financial barriers to owning home.

A 2018 analysis the mortgage data found that metropolitan Detroit black loan applicants were 1.9 times more likely to be denied credit than their white counterparts. In the greater Lansing area, black applicants were 3.1 times more likely to be rejected.

In 2020, researchers, including an official with the University of Michigan’s Institute of Social Research, released results that a $ 950 billion federal program aims to prop up business during the pandemic largely failed black business owners.

According to the study, non-black business owners were 30 times more likely to receive paycheck protection funds than their black counterparts. Only 0.3 percent of black business owners said they would get funding, compared with about 9 percent of non-black business owners.

Grand Rapids business owner Robinson told of a number of late black-owned businesses that once stood along Wealthy Street that bisects the east side of Grand Rapids: a beauty store, an African American bookstore, a restaurant, a rib caterer. Shop.

“It’s different for African-American business owners,” said Robinson. “They face various struggles, both in keeping their business going and in starting a business.”

As investments in the Grand Rapids neighborhoods increase, Kareem Scales of the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP also sees the lack of access to capital by black entrepreneurs as a persistent obstacle.

“We want to have a thriving business world,” he told Bridge. “But it’s a double-edged sword. We know the importance of redevelopment. But at whose expense and whose profit? “

Housing Next’s Kilpatrick called for a number of measures to close the affordable housing gap, including cheaper loan rates. His group is also looking for changes such as a less restrictive zoning that would allow multi-family housing within single-family homes. However, such measures often meet with fierce resistance from residents who speak out against changes in the character of their neighborhood.

“It’s difficult politically,” he said.

For Grand Rapids-based black business owner Synia Jordan, her extended family history draws a painful story of inequality that she says is still unfolding.


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