GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Partners, policymakers and politicians boarded a Rapid bus Friday for an educational ride through the streets of Grand Rapids, past the various housing projects available to those seeking an affordable roof over their heads.

Many of these projects are run by the Grand Rapids Housing Commission.

The tour was intended “just to share with them some of the great programs at Grand Rapids Housing Commission,” said Lindsey Reames, executive director of GRHC.

About 4,200 housing units are available — some owned by the commission, some run by nonprofits and some supported by vouchers through the commission.

Qualifying for GRHC is based on income as a percentage of the area’s median income. Currently, the median household income in Grand Rapids is just over $55,000, according to the last census. 

“Generally, what it means (to qualify) is earning 80% of area median income or less,” Reames said. “We also have what we call the missing middle. You’ve heard a lot of talk about the missing middle: those who earn 80% to 120% of area median income.”

Around 35,000 affordable housing units are expected to be needed in the next five years.

Sometimes, people go to work each day but still need help paying the rent. Programs from the Housing Commission and its nonprofit partners are designed to help people move up and move out.  

“We are all for and encourage programs that help families become self-sufficient,” Reames said.

But the shortage has not helped those efforts.

“People who are renting the most affordable units for our most vulnerable population really might be able to afford something more,” Reames said. “So the more housing we can build, definitely the better off it will be.”

Reames hopes the bus ride gives those who can impact the future of affordable housing some food for thought.

“We’ve just got to all figure out how we collaborate together to get to a much better place with number of units,” Reames said.

More information is available at the GRHC’s website.