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Tiny homes in Grand Rapids quickly approaching reality

The City Commission approved zoning for the Mel Trotter project, building 16 tiny homes, 11 apartments and a community space in the Madison Square neighborhood.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — This month, Grand Rapids City Commission and planning committee approved rezoning for a new housing project by Mel Trotter Ministries.

The project is called Hope Village, and is planned for the Madison Square neighborhood area. It will be located on Garden Street SE between Division Ave and Jefferson Ave. 

The project will feature 16 tiny homes in a community. They also plan to renovate an old industrial building into 11 workforce development apartments and a community space. 

"We all know that there's a housing crisis," said Dennis Van Kampen, president and CEO of Mel Trotter Ministries, "And there's not enough homes for people that are leaving extreme poverty or leaving homelessness. So, tiny homes sort of answers that bill by giving people something that is nice. It's dignified."

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Hope Village will feature 11 apartments, a community center, and 16 tiny homes. Plus, it is near a previous project, currently under construction, building transitional homes.

The project is now in a fundraising stage. Van Kampen said if all things go as planned, they could look at completion as early as the end of 2023. However, that time frame is flexible. 

"It's a place to call their own," said Van Kampen, "And it's a place to start on that journey to homeownership."

The program would also allow the option for people to purchase the tiny house after seven years. 

"At that point, they can do what anyone that owns a home does," said Van Kampen, "They can stay there, or they can sell it and use the equity to move somewhere else to a different part of town, or wherever they want."

The project would bring the first tiny home community in Grand Rapids. The goal is to provide an answer for a housing crisis, where affordable housing is actually affordable. 

Van Kampen said Grand Rapids is seeing a few contributing factors to helping people out of homelessness. The first is the lack of housing, plus increasing rent and a national increase in homelessness all over the country. 

Credit: 13 OYS
Mel Trotter will renovate the existing industrial building on the site to become apartments and a community space.

"COVID didn't cause the increase, but it accelerated it," said Van Kampen, "So now, we're seeing a significant increase in the number of families becoming homeless. And in youth, ages 16 to 24, a staggering increase. We have increasing homelessness, we have increasing rent making it unaffordable for many people. When we drive around West Michigan, we're seeing more homelessness. So now, what we need to do is come up with solutions like this that can actually start turning that needle back."

He said a single mom of two children living in Grand Rapids needs to work 77 hours a week at an entry level job just to afford rent. 

"We need to start developing more housing, like a tiny home village, where that mom can actually have an opportunity to be not in a shelter, not in a car somewhere, not doubled or tripled up," said Van Kampen, "But in a place that is her own. That she and her family can thrive."

RELATED VIDEO: An inside look at the huts for homeless in Holland

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