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Affordable apartments planned for empty school

Tenants would pay around one third of their monthly income for rent.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A Grand Rapids school with no students will soon be apartments for families with no home.

The Inner City Christian Federation now owns the empty Eastern Elementary School in Highland Park. It is no longer needed to teach students, so the ICCF is planning to remodel it into about 50 affordable apartments for low income tenants looking for a place to live.

“I think it will help,” says neighbor Sophia Walsh. “A lot better than having an abandoned school in the neighborhood.”

“We have a vibrant city here where people want to come and work, “explains ICCF President and CEO Ryan VerWys. “There is going to be increased demand for our housing. We need to create as many housing opportunities as we can for our neighbors who are low income."

Developers are buying and replacing affordable housing with condos and market rate apartments. And VerWys sys the demand for housing is pushing up rent on the units that remain.

“Sometimes even $300 a month,” he says. “That is unsustainable, and people are becoming homeless. The need for affordable housing is at a crisis level.”

VerWys says The Inner City Christian Federation already has about 400 affordable apartments for rent. He says Eastern Elementary and other projects in the works could add another 250 units in the next 3 years.

“If we, as a community, aspire to be a place where all walks of life could have a place to call home we have to make those spaces,” he says.

“I think having people in there will be a lot better than it being empty,” says Jeremy Peterson, who lives near the school. “More room for people to come and a great opportunity for Grand Rapids.”

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