HOLLAND, Mich (WOOD) — Two churches are working with a nonprofit to bring affordable housing to downtown Holland.

“Holland has seen significant rent increases. We’re finding that it’s harder and harder for working class families to be able to find quality places for people to live,” Dwelling Place CEO Jeremy DeRoo said.

If the project goes through, Dwelling Place would own and operate two apartment buildings at Pine Avenue and 10th Street containing a total of 46 units. It would be the Grand Rapids-based nonprofit’s second development in Holland.

The idea came from two neighboring churches, Hope Church and First United Methodist Church. Each had its own plans to use land they own to increase the stock of affordable housing.

“What we have isn’t just for us, it’s not just for us as a congregation, but it’s for us to share with the community as part of our ministry,” LuAnne Stanley Hook, director of community involvement at First United Methodist, said.

First United Methodist Church in downtown Holland.

Her church started talking about the idea in 2018, when clergy saw a number of people searching for housing. That birthed an initiative to assist the homeless, many of whom were struggling to be rehoused, and soon a research project to study affordable housing.

During that process, First United Methodist learned Hope Church had the same goal.

“It was just all born out of relationship,” Hook said.

She said around during that time, there were at least three different developments that were supposed to add housing but all fell through.

“That concerned us but we thought that church or churches being excited about being in relationship with a development and being part of creating a development would go a long way for making it more of local thing,” Hook said.

The apartments will serve low-income families and at least 11 of the units have been set aside for people with disabilities. The overall goal is to keep more money in renters’ pockets.

“In our project that we are looking at, the higher-end rent will be around $1,000 a month and that’s significantly below where the market is,” DeRoo said.

First United Methodist Church owns three rental properties that will be torn down and replaced by the three-story building space. There will also be a two-story building with 15 units across the street.

The plan for the proposed housing development. (Courtesy: Dwelling Place)

“This development would be 30% of a person’s income. It would be accessible to a variety of people including those who might be able to obtain Section 8 vouchers for subsidized housing,” Hook said.

Church leaders say it’s going to take more than this one project to see effective change.

“There’s a lot of potential out there if we all work together we can make a dent in this affordable housing problem,” Hook said.

Hope Church in downtown Holland.

There will be two community meetings on April 28 to to gain insight from the public on site designs and overall concerns about the project. The first meeting will last from noon until 1 p.m. The second one will last from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Both will be held at Hope Church on 11th Street at S. River Avenue.

“We really are trying to take the ideas we have so far to meet the zoning requirements and building requirements and finding out how we can make this happen. We want to have as many conversations with community members as possible to make sure what we designs fits well with the community,” DeRoo said.

If you would like to learn more about how adding affordable housing where you live, there will be a virtual advocacy training on May 5 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. You can contact Hope Church or First United Methodist Church for more information.