The Rapidian Home

City commission candidates address affordable housing in forum

City Commission race spotlights the social costs of economic development

Primary Election, Aug. 6

Voters in the 2nd Ward will choose between 3 candidates in the Primary Election on Tues., Aug. 6. Registration by mail is open until July 22, and at the Clerk's Office July 23-Aug. 6.

The Primary ballot also includes the race for Library Commissioner.

The other two City Commission races, with 2 candidates or less, will not appear until the General Election, Nov. 5, 2019.

/Amy Pattullo

More than 60 people attended a City Commission candidate forum on affordable housing July 11 at the main library, hosted by the grassroots advocacy group Grand Rapids Homes for All.

Participating were candidates Allison Lutz (1st ward), 2nd ward contenders Michael Farage and Milinda Ysasi, and the unopposed 3rd ward incumbent Nathaniel Moody.

GRHA calls housing affordable if available rents and mortgages are priced at no more than 30% of an area’s median income. According to U.S. census data 2013-17, the city’s median income was $44,369, putting an affordable monthly housing payment at $1,100. Moderator Denavvia Mojet posed a series of questions aiming to gauge the candidates’ understanding of the housing situation in Grand Rapids.

Candidate Lutz pointed out that her ward’s John Ball Park neighborhood has seen the fastest increasing rental costs in the city. She agreed that rent controls, currently prohibited by state law, could be a useful tool to easing housing stresses there. She also believes the city can work with developers to address the problem.

The 3rd Ward’s Moody said the city already has several effective programs in place. His main concerns are to enable residents to stay in their homes under changing conditions and to keep the city housing stock safe—free of lead hazards, for instance, and with clean water.

Milinda Ysasi was reluctant to endorse direct housing remedies, saying the issue fell outside her expertise. As a workforce development specialist, however, she pointed out that measures to increase incomes approach affordability from the other direction. Wages in the city are “compressed,” she said, and child care costs are burdensome.

Michael Farage was the one speaker to oppose rent controls “100%.” He also opposes association with the Michigan Land Bank, which the other candidates support. Government is the problem, not the solution. “Why go back to the same doctors who made you sick?” he asked.  The public school system is failing and is the root of any housing problem that exists. “If you’re illiterate, you won’t be able to buy a home.”

Another candidate forum, sponsored independently and focused on the 2nd ward race, is scheduled for Wednesday, July 31, 6 p.m., at Dog Story Theater. Tickets are free but must be reserved in advance.  For information, contact Alex Duensing, [email protected].

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.