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Buying a house in Grand Rapids: Can you afford it?

3rd October 2014 Print

There’s no doubt that Grand Rapids is a great place to live. We’re the fourth best city for job hunters, we’re one of the best places to retire, we ranked #7 for happiest cities in which to work and last year, Grand Rapids was ranked #11 on Forbes’ list of “Best Buy Cities.” In this case, “Best Buy” doesn’t refer to the electronics chain. In this case, it refers to “cities in which to buy a home.”

That’s a pretty great thing to be, when you consider that the nation’s housing market--on the whole--isn’t rebounding as well as everybody had hoped it would. In Grand Rapids, though, homeownership is on the rise and the houses here are very affordable (especially when compared to other parts of the country). In fact, we ranked #9 for “most affordable cities in the US.

Even so, there are some people who are having trouble affording homes in this great city. Thankfully, there are some great resources out there for people whose financial and/or employment situations might be keeping them stuck in renter’s limbo.  Here are just a few of them.

Michigan State Housing Development Authority

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority has a lot of great resources for people who have been having trouble finding affordable housing for themselves and their families. For homeowners, in particular, they offer down payment assistance for hopeful home buyers who meet the program’s “low to median” income criteria and family size requirements. The nice thing about these payments is that they aren’t charged interest and they can be used for down payments or for offsetting things like closing costs or escrow payments. 

In addition to down payment assistance, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority also helps first time home buyers secure mortgages at lower rates. There are also some great tax incentives and credits available for people who are buying homes in Grand Rapids.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (or HUD) is a nationally based program that helps people with income issues find affordable homes to rent and buy. In Grand Rapids, in particular, in addition to FHA loans and mortgages, offer to help people buy homes through the Kent County chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

They also offer homeownership classes for first time home buyers and can help point people toward lenders who cater specifically to economically and employmentally challenged individuals (as well as helping them avoid predatory lenders who want to take advantage of people in exactly your situation).

Veteran’s Programs

While there are a lot of problems being sorted out right now within the VA, one thing is for sure: the Veteran’s Affairs commission has their act together when it comes to helping veterans find and buy housing. Most veterans, for example, can obtain mortgages without requiring down payments and often qualify for much lower rates on mortgages than civilians can get. The problem is that there are a lot of lenders out there who don’t know how to verify a veteran’s service or how to apply the benefits they’ve earned to that veteran’s mortgage application. Organizations like Low VA Rates exist to help veterans make sure that they’re applying for the right type of mortgage and are taking full advantage of the benefits offered to them for their service.  

Even if you aren’t yet ready to buy your own home, there are tons of resources available here in Grand Rapids for people who need to find affordable housing. The MSHDA and HUD both have programs that help low income or employment-challenged individuals find safe and secure shelter, whether it is shared housing or apartments that have been built specifically for people in your situation. Contact a representative from one of these agencies or your VA rep (if you are a veteran) to get started finding your next home.