GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Board of Commissioners has approved more than 30 projects to receive money from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The county received $127 million in ARPA funding. But by far the biggest investment Kent County made is going toward affordable housing.

Rent has skyrocketed in Michigan after the pandemic. According to an August report from Rent.com, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment went from $762 to $1,160 in only the last year.

It’s turning people’s attention to affordable housing and the lack of it in Kent County.

“Anywhere I go in Kent County, anywhere that you had a town hall meeting in Kent County, people talked about affordable housing,” Helen Lehman, the executive director of New Development Corp., said during the board of commissioners meeting last week. “We don’t have enough of it.”

As the need for affordable housing grows in Grand Rapids and across Michigan, county commissioners believe a new investment will be a game changer.

“Truly a transformational project in my view,” District 18 Kent County Commissioner Stephen Wooden said.

A total of $17.5 million will establish a Revolving Housing Fund.

“It could very well be the single largest investment made by a local government in affordable housing in West Michigan history,” Wooden added.

Here’s how it will work: The county is expected to hire a community development financial institution (CDFI), who will give out no-interest and low-interest loans to affordable housing projects in the area. Commissioners say a financial institution could match the $17.5 million, skyrocketing the investment in affordable housing.

“(The funds will be put) into a CDFI that could match it even over two to one to turn it into a $70 million revolving fund to support affordable housing needs this community,” Wooden explained.

“I’m thrilled with money going into the revolving fund,” District 15 Kent County Commissioner Melissa LaGrand added. “Really thrilled with that. The possibility of matching it and having a much bigger fund, that’s going to be great.”

It’s not the only investment the county is making in affordable housing. A sum of $500,000 in ARPA funding is going to Housing Next, which will identify barriers in development and support local cities that are trying to change zoning laws to make these projects possible.

They say their decision reflects what the community wants. Commissioners say when they held town halls and conducted surveys, the community called affordable housing the #1 priority.

“I think it’s a gift to the community,” District 10 Kent County Commissioner Emily Brieve said. “I do think there are transformation projects in part of this, and I’m really excited to see what comes about with the housing.”