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  • Writer's pictureJared Cramer

Affordable housing solutions sought

Below is an article from November 20, 2014, from the Grand Haven Tribune that mentions the ministry of our church.

“I’ve been searching for housing for many years, and I can’t find anything affordable or accessible in this area,” she said.

Oosterbaan spoke at a meeting in Grand Haven on Wednesday night to discuss that issue. Oosterbaan, who has lived in a wheelchair since she was a teenager, has since searched for solutions and brainstormed ideas for housing options.

“We’ve been looking for 20 years already,” said Jill’s mother, Lois Oosterbaan. “It shows there’s a big need not being met.”

St. John’s Episcopal Church hosted the affordable housing action meeting.

“Often times, a lot of people don’t see the problem as many of us do,” said the church’s rector, the Rev. Jared Cramer.

According to Cramer, during the past 12 years, the median monthly mortgage in the area has increased 19.5 percent and the median monthly rent has gone up by 22.5 percent. Meanwhile, the median income increased only 3.7 percent, and the local United Way’s 2012 Community Needs Assessment indicates that 49.7 percent of area families have difficulty making housing payments, he said.

“One thing I do well as a priest is host conversations,” Cramer said. “What could we try as community members and community leaders to address this?”

Attendees brainstormed and shared ideas for more than an hour, generating challenges facing people searching for housing options. The challenges that were identified include low wages, low inventory, housing age and maintenance costs, the cost of living, some housing being used as seasonal rentals, a lack of community awareness, and a lack of willing developers.

Karen Reenders, director of The People Center in Spring Lake, said she’s witnessed some of the problems of finding willing developers.

“We had the Northwest Ottawa Housing Coalition, and we couldn’t get them interested in attending any of the (meetings),” she said. “We tried to get Realtors involved and developers involved. … It kind of just fizzled out.”

Attendees at Wednesday’s meeting also looked at ways that more affordable and accessible housing could be built in the Tri-Cities, and decided to reach out to like-minded organizations. Cramer said he would contact those organizations to see if they’d be willing to partner on an affordable and accessible housing development.

The church will host another meeting in several weeks to see what direction they’d go next.

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