GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Experts are reporting a housing crisis for renters in Grand Rapids. This comes as another high rise apartment complex is in the works for downtown, with a $52 million price tag. Studio Park is looking to add more than 160 apartments on top of its parking garage.
If approved by the city, these units would add to the increasing supply of apartments in Grand Rapids, while demand remains high.
"I think the Grand Rapids area has a lot going for it," says Doug Ressler, senior analyst and manager of Business Intelligence at Yardi Matrix.
In 2021, Grand Rapids ranked in the top 20 most competitive renter's market in the nation. That's according to Rent Café, which analyzed the trends in more than 100 cities. Rent Café is the sister company of Yardi Matrix.
"Grand Rapids has been typically what they call a low beta market, not a lot of activity," Ressler says. "But the recent increase has picked up, especially with the diversity of what's going on in Western Michigan."
On average last year, an apartment in Grand Rapids is only on the market for 25 days, with 22 prospective renters looking at it at once. The city's occupancy rate is at 97%, while the nation's average sits almost two points lower.
And there are certain areas that Ressler saw spikes in activity.
"It's in the northeast quadrant of the of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids downtown. That's where we see the most diverse, and Holland, where we see the most growth potential for 2022," he says.
"In this market you need to be armed with everything," said Nancy Haynes, executive director of Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.
She says there can be side effects to an increasingly competitive market.
"I just think that when a market gets tighter, sometimes we see landlords becoming more discriminatory," Haynes says.
Last year, the center handled 200 cases of illegal housing discrimination, a 33% increase from the year before.
"When it's such a tight market, it could be the littlest thing that stands between you and that housing that would really meet your family's needs," Haynes says.
She hopes that people looking for a new apartment right now know their rights and that more affordable housing can come on the market too.
"You can't be discriminated against based on color of skin or the size of your fam," Haynes says. "You can be discriminated against based on your income, but not the source."
Rent Café didn't analyze the prices of rent in Grand Rapids, but Ressler says while prices may fluctuate, he doesn't predict an inflationary spiral like much larger cities would.
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