A rendering of Dwelling Place’s proposed 42-unit housing development on the south side of Grand Rapids. A rendering of Dwelling Place’s proposed 42-unit housing development on the south side of Grand Rapids. COURTESY OF PROGRESSIVE AE INC.

GR officials downplay neighborhood concerns, say unique housing project is needed

BY Thursday, January 20, 2022 02:34pm

GRAND RAPIDS — City officials are set to consider zoning changes in support of an affordable housing development that they say is needed but has received pushback from some nearby residents.

Housing nonprofit Dwelling Place is planning a 42-unit housing project at 2030 Union Ave. SE on the city’s south side. The project is based on a community land trust model, which is meant to provide homeownership opportunities for people with earnings below or near the area median income.

While some residents have raised concerns about the density and traffic implications of the 6-acre project, as well as the ownership model, city commissioners say it’s needed to expand housing options for low- and middle-income residents. The developers also recently scaled back the original proposal from 47 to 42 units to address density concerns.

“We’ve been trying to get a community land trust project and finally we have one (proposed),” City Commissioner Senita Lenear said during a Jan. 11 Community Development Committee meeting. “I think we have some work to do in helping convey what we’ve been encouraging so when we have a developer bring a project forward to the community, people understand the history behind that work.”

The Grand Rapids Housing Commission also supports the project and assisted Dwelling Place in developing the community land trust-driven proposal. The community land trust model is “very important for Michigan as many cities struggle (with) historically low housing inventory which has resulted in increasing levels of resident displacement and double-digit home value appreciation,” according to a Dec. 7 Housing Commission letter in support of the project.

Under a community land trust model, housing units sit on land held by a designated trust, but the resident still owns the home, as MiBiz previously reported. Households would be expected to obtain a mortgage for about 75 percent of their home’s value. The standard home size in the project would be about 1,100 square feet “with a sufficient rear yard,” according to planning documents.

“This (plan) is so substantial, and is sitting in the middle of the city,” City Commissioner Joe Jones said during the Jan. 11 meeting. “For this to be used in a way that can bring (home) ownership and that opportunity is a good thing. There is no doubt you’ll have residents surrounding the property that may not be happy with the outcome. We’re moving in the right direction.”

A traffic analysis showed that the existing road network would be able to accommodate an expected increase in current traffic levels, said Grand Rapids Planning Director Kristin Turkelson. 

The proposed density is 8.9 units per acre, which aligns with zoning districts and thresholds layed out in the city’s master plan, Turkelson added. 

On Jan. 25, the city commission will vote on whether to rezone parts of the property as well as consider amending an existing planned redevelopment district on the site to adjust its boundary. 

The ordinances would facilitate both the 42-unit residential development proposed by Dwelling Place as well as an expansion by Bethany Christian Services. The faith-based nonprofit’s offices are located at 670 Burton St. SE on the same block as the planned land trust development. Bethany Christian Services is planning to expand its existing offices with a new four-story building and new 95-space parking lot.

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