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Grand Rapids non-profit plans to buy 177 homes in area to preserve affordable housing

Dustin Dwyer
Michigan Radio
Headquarters of the Inner City Christian Federation in Grand Rapids.

A non-profit in Grand Rapids says it’s reached an agreement to buy 177 homes to preserve affordable housing in the region.
The Inner City Christian Federation, or ICCF, plans to buy the homes from a Chicago-based investment company, known as RDG. Michigan Radio first reported in April that RDG had quietly become the single largest investor in single family homes in Grand Rapids, with more than 140 properties in the city alone.

ICCF says its purchase agreement is for 177 homes in Grand Rapids, Wyoming and Eaton Rapids, near Lansing. 
The details of the agreement were first reported by MiBiz on Sunday.

Ryan VerWys is CEO of ICCF. He says he hopes the deal will be finalized in August or September, after his organization completes its due-diligence research on the properties included in the deal. 

After that, VerWys says ICCF hopes to work with anyone currently living in the homes. 

"We don’t know yet who the tenants are in these homes," VerWys says. "So we want to get to know the tenants, find out what their dreams and visions are and find out if any of them are interested in becoming homeowners." 

VerWys says the goal is to have the 177 homes be a mix of owner-occupied homes and rentals, with the focus on low-income residents. He says ICCF will be working with other businesses and non-profits to make that happen. 

"We’re going to be working very closely with those other housing providers in town to make sure that we can have the maximum community impact," he says. 

A representative for RDG, which currently owns the homes, declined to comment for this story. 

Chart showing top home investors in Grand Rapids
Credit Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Investment groups like RDG have been buying up properties throughout Grand Rapids, driving up prices. Click image to enlarge.

The deal with ICCF doesn't include all of RDG's properties in the area, but it would mark a significant shift in the trend of out-of-state investors buying up homes in Grand Rapids. 

ICCF has a long history of investing in homes in low-income neighborhoods around Grand Rapids. In the past, that meant buying and rebuilding homes in areas where no other investors showed any interest. Now, CEO Ryan VerWys says there's plenty of investor interest all over town. So he says ICCF's focus has shifted to maintaining affordable options. 

And he says that will be the goal for the tenants of RDG's properties if the deal goes through.

"I wouldn’t want them to be worried about the future," he says of those tenants. "We really care about our community. We believe that a thriving community is a place where people of all walks of life have a place where they can live and that’s affordable." 

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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