Economic Development: LINC Up and GRCC Announce Partnership on Affordable Housing, Free Construction Training

March 16, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS - LINC Up, a community-based economic and real estate development organization, announced a partnership with Grand Rapids Community College to train residents in construction trades tuition-free while building affordable housing in Southwest Grand Rapids.

The event took place at 507 Umatilla SE, the site of the first new home construction already underway. Present were representatives from LINC Up, GRCC, the new executive Director of MSHDA, local and state elected officials, along with local builders and contractors, and GRCC construction program students.

“This project is providing quality housing in Grand Rapids, something that is desperately needed,” said Jeremy DeRoo, Executive Director of LINC Up, “But it is also about so much more. Housing development represents significant economic activity in Grand Rapids and the collaboration will help open the doors for more residents to participate in the growing industry. This endeavor would not be possible without the support and resources GRCC is providing - along with skills and hard labor of their students - in addition to the financial support from MiSHDA, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Opportunity Resource Fund.”

According to DeRoo, the partnership with GRCC allows construction students in the college’s Workforce Training program, working with the local contractors, Lewis Construction and architect Isaac Norris, to build the house. The money savings helps keep construction costs, and eventually the selling price of the new home, down. One other key component of the partnership will allow for residents interested in a career in construction to enroll in GRCC’s construction program for free. “So it is feasible for unemployed young men and women in the neighborhood to learn a trade, get certified and find a job in construction, without having to worry about the finances to pay for it,” he said.

Julie Parks, executive director of GRCC’s Workforce Training program, which oversees the construction program, described the partnership as “a huge win for the community. The opportunity these construction students have for hands-on experience by working with experienced contractors and building an actual house that a family will buy is invaluable training for them. And for them to be working with an organization like LINC just adds more value to their experience.”

The partnership agreement will accommodate up to sixteen construction students every sixteen weeks beginning in April. It consists of 612 hours of instruction, with 80% of that being hands-on at a construction site, working on every part of the home construction. Upon completion of the program, the students will be certified in residential construction, and includes OSHA certification and asbestos credentials. According to Parks, the program has a 93% placement rate for these fully certified students.

“Partnering with LINC helps us continue our mission of providing safe, decent and affordable housing opportunities in Grand Rapids,” said Earl Poleski, MSHDA executive director. “We look forward to seeing how the important work they do boosts economic development and opens doors to a better quality of life for residents.”

A $331,000 MiSHDA grant will provide a subsidy for four homes. Homebuyer assistance is offered to qualified homebuyers which helps bridge the gap between the amount the homebuyer can afford for their mortgage and the total costs needed to close on the home. The homebuyer contributes 1% of the purchase price of their own funds. The homes will be ready to sell in late April.

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