City, Grand Rapids Housing Commission create Rental Assistance Center

Published on September 20, 2018

Photo of a housing unit established by the Grand Rapids Housing Commission

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The City of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Housing Commission have established a two-year pilot for a Rental Assistance Center for low-income households. 

The Rental Assistance Center – approved by the City Commission on Tuesday – will connect households that earn 80 percent or less of the Area Median Income (AMI) with vacant rental properties and refer “rent-ready” applicants to landlords, increasing the efficiency of the rental search for households and landlords. The AMI is $55,900 for a four-person household. Households that are not rent ready – do not meet established landlord criteria – will be referred to a resident service coordinator who can help them overcome barriers to secure rental housing. 

All of this will be done through an online portal that will provide a single access point for certifying households as rent ready and serve as a clearinghouse for landlords searching for renters. 

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss touted the Rental Assistance Center as another tool in the City’s Housing NOW! initiative – a package of 11 policy proposals around key housing issues. 

“This investment strengthens our commitment to addressing housing affordability in our city,” Mayor Bliss said. “We are pleased to work with the Housing Commission to help families reduce or eliminate the barriers that prevent them from finding a place to live.”

The City will provide $91,800 each year during the two-year pilot program. That will cover the software license, phones, office expenses, credit reports for 1,000 applicants and one full-time resident service coordinator for 250 rent-ready applicants per year.

Applicants who are not rent ready will meet in person with a resident service coordinator who will conduct assessments and provide referrals to community agencies that can help them overcome the barriers to securing rental housing. This support may include assistance with paying a security deposit, securing utilities, overcoming poor landlord references, “good renter” classes, clearing money owed to former landlords and credit repair, among others.

“The issue of affordable housing is at a high pitch in our community,” said Carlos Sanchez, executive director of the Grand Rapids Housing Commission. “Too many people are having difficulty with the housing voucher application process and aren’t able to find affordable housing. Through the Rental Assistance Center, we can find out what’s preventing them from getting into housing and help them overcome those barriers.”   

The Grand Rapids Housing Commission manages and maintains the city’s public housing, which includes apartments for families and seniors. It also administers the federal Section 8 housing voucher program in the greater Grand Rapids area. Section 8 bridges the gap between what low-income households can afford to spend on housing and the fair market rent of an apartment, townhouse or single-family home. 

The Housing Commission also offers a homeownership program that allows eligible Section 8 program participants to apply their rental subsidy toward mortgage payments. For more on the Housing Commission’s programs, CLICK HERE.