A new study released Thursday, March 2, shows a major shortage of available rental homes for low income families in the United States. And the same is true here in West Michigan.

The report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition finds a shortage of 7.4 million affordable and available rental homes for extremely low income renter households (those with incomes at or below 30 percent of their area median income or the poverty guideline).

The study finds there are just 35 affordable and available units for every 100 extremely low income renter households on average, nationwide.

Lack of affordable housing is an issue that the Greater Ottawa County United Way has been concerned about for years. According to a study by the United Way, 47 percent of people in Zeeland are struggling with housing costs. That's followed by 45 percent in Grand Haven and 43 percent in Holland and Allendale.

"People really want to live here, so the vacancy rate is low, the fair market rent is high, and wages have not increased over the last several years as much as rent and mortgage has," said Lyn Raymond, coordinator for the Lakeshore Housing Alliance of Greater Ottawa County United Way.

That's one of reasons Grand Rapids based non-profit The Dwelling Place is building apartments at the Theodore Roosevelt Elementary elementary in Muskegon Heights which was was closed by a state appointed financial emergency manager in 2010.

Dwelling Place specializes in affordable housing for low-income individuals and families. Half of the apartments will be at state determined affordable rates based on Muskegon County income statistics.

The other units are for individuals who live with disabilities or struggle with homelessness.

The Dwelling Place owns and operates about 1,200 affordable rental units in West Michigan.

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