Suit: Low-income housing not for low-income people

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A major Grand Rapids developer is accused of discriminating against African American and disabled tenants and failing to live up to their promise of providing low-income housing. 

Live Downtown is a developer of at least 10 properties in Grand Rapids, many of which received tax credits to provide low-income housing in places like the Heartside Neighborhood. 

But a lawsuit filed by attorneys at Legal Aid of Western Michigan, which represents low-income clients in housing and related issues, says that’s not what’s happening in many cases. 

The 14-story apartment building at 20 Fulton Street East and the building at 101 South Division Avenue are among the projects built by Live Downtown, which is owned by Brookstone LLC. 

The 20 Fulton East project was projected to cost $37 million when it was proposed six years ago and received $3 million in tax credits to provide affordable housing. 

“They received a dollar-for-dollar tax credit when they first developed these properties that goes on for 10 years. In order to receive that tax credit, they committed to providing low-income housing,” said John P Smith, an attorney with Legal Aid of Western Michigan.

The lawsuit claims Live Downtown is denying residency to disabled and African American low-income citizens. 

 “They have significantly less minorities in those developments than in comparable developments in the downtown Grand Rapids area and six times less persons with disabilities living in their developments,” Smith said. “They’re very quick to evict certain tenants from their properties.” 

It started when Legal Aid was representing tenants who were undergoing eviction — both disabled and African American. 

The lawsuit says in one case, Live Downtown claimed without basis that one resident had delinquent credit accounts. 

In a separate case, Live Downtown first claimed falsely that she had a criminal conviction, the lawsuit stated. The developer then claimed she had an unauthorized occupant who was in fact was a “chore provider” that helped her with day-to-day tasks that was paid by state agencies, according to the suit.  

“Their policies are really preventing lower-income people or that population from really getting housing in those developments,” Smith said. “Seems to be marketing toward a tenant population that tends to be more of a young professional tenant population and not the low-income population they promised to serve.” 

24 Hour News 8 called and stopped by Live Downtown seeking comment and was told this through a speaker near the entrance at their offices at 101 South Division Avenue — “We have sought legal counsel in the case and we have no further comment at this time.” 

The lawsuit is seeking both monetary compensation and a change in Live Downtown’s policies. 

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