City Commission approves four Housing NOW! initiative recommendations

Published on January 31, 2018

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Approvals are first step toward greater housing choice, affordability and opportunity

Grand Rapids, Mich. – The City Commission unanimously approved four Housing NOW! policy recommendations on Tuesday following months of work by the Grand Rapids Housing Advisory Committee. The policy changes are intended to create better outcomes for improved housing affordability and housing choices for city residents. 

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. Housing NOW! is a package of 11 policy proposals around key housing issues. The initiative was developed from recommendations by the Housing Advisory Committee, which included nearly 30 community members, affordable housing advocates, housing developers, City staff and City Commissioners. First Ward Commissioner Jon O’Connor served as chair of the Housing Advisory Committee.

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

The policy changes, based on the Housing Advisory Committee’s recommendations, are:

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 fee 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, City Commission Policy – 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, City Commission 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.

“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,” Interim City Manager Eric DeLong said. “Through these policies, the City and its many community partners will have a much greater impact than any entity acting alone.”

Additional Housing NOW! policy recommendations are expected to be brought before the City Commission for consideration in 2018. To learn more about the Housing Advisory Committee, the Housing NOW! recommendations or to get involved in the City’s response to housing needs in Grand Rapids, visit grandrapidsmi.gov/Government/Programs-and-Initiatives/Housing-Now.