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Recent Michigan House Bill Would Repeal Prohibition on Rent Control – A Response to the Affordable Housing Crisis?

April 13, 2017 Leave a comment

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On March 30, 2017 House Bill 4456 was introduced. The Bill would repeal Michigan’s prohibition on Rent Control.

The Bill was presumably proposed in response to the affordable housing crisis in Michigan and all across the United States. Other local governments across the U.S. are exploring legislative avenues to address the housing crisis.

 

 

According to Representative Chang, who introduced the Bill, the current rent control prohibition “makes it increasingly difficult for seniors and some families to find affordable housing, or to stay in the apartments they’ve lived in for many years.”
Representative Chang was apparently referring to the affordable housing crisis in Detroit. From all accounts, Grand Rapids is facing an affordable housing crisis as well.

 

Grand Rapids Housing Crisis

As many of you may know, a few months back the Grand Rapids Chamber hosted an Issue Summit on the Housing Crisis in Grand Rapids.

The Summit brought speakers representing many community stakeholders, including representatives from 616 DevelopmentGrand Rapids Urban League,Rockford ConstructionICCFMSHDA, and many local non-profits, including Mel Trotter MinistriesHQHeartside Ministries, on this lack of affordable housing, what is as Mayor Bliss emphasized, admittedly, “a complex issue”.

I have previously offered my own perspective, both as a lawyer representing real estate developers/investors, and as Board Chairman at Mel Trotter Ministries.

 

Is there an Answer found in Social Enterprise?

A few months back, Jim Harger with MLive posted a thorough article on the affordable housing crisis.

One community partner highlighted was Pastor Jim Davis and his company “Purpose Properties

“The mission of Purpose Properties is to “raise enough money from local foundations and philanthropists to buy market-rate and affordable rental properties in the city.”

According to Jim Harger’s article:

Purpose Properties plans to charge market rates for its properties to those who can afford them and use their profits to subsidize the rents of those who cannot afford market rates.”

We need more businesses and community stakeholders to approach our community problems like Jim Davis and Purpose Properties.

 

Community Partners Collaborating

Recently Mel Trotter Ministries announced that it was partnering with 3:11 Youth Housing to provide housing for homeless males 18-24.

As Mayor Bliss stated at the Housing Summit – the affordable housing crisis presents a complex issue.

It will take all community stakeholders to do their part – businesses, churches, government, and non-profits.

 

The question we should all ask ourselves: Am I working to build a better community?

 

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Michigan Legislation Update: The Urban Food Initiative. Community Revitalization To Include Downtown Grocery Stores.

February 15, 2017 Leave a comment

Two Thanksgivings ago I took my family to New York City.

Even amidst the chaos of protecting my 4 young children from darting out in2015-11-26-13-04-02to oncoming traffic – we absolutely loved the City.

We loved the walk-ability of City life – that you could walk down a block to a grocery store and get all of your household needs.

I love downtown Grand Rapids.

If Grand Rapids wants to encourage urban living, it needs a downtown grocery store.

Yesterday, House Bill 4207 was introduced in the Michigan house. Known as the “Urban Food Initiative” it would provide incentives for community revitalization that would include a downtown Grocery Store.

Specifically, HB 4027 would make “Urban Food Initiatives” allowable to receive funds under the Michigan Community Revitalization Program

The Bill defines Urban Food Initiatives as:

Property that will be used primarily as a retail supermarket, grocery store, produce market or delicatessen that is located in a downtown area…that offers unprocessed USDA inspected meat and poultry products or meat products that carry the USDA organic seal, fresh fruit and vegetables, and dairy products for sale to the public.”

Clearly having available and healthy food options in a downtown are necessary to City living. Check out today’s article from Next City about the Food Revolution in Detroit.

A downtown grocery store is necessary if a City wants to attract urban living – it is also necessary to provide healthy food options for those living downtown without readily available transportation.

I think particularly of the under-employed and the homeless who receive services from organizations like Mel Trotter Ministries. Grand Rapids has a need for affordable housing for the most vulnerable in our society. It would be great to see grocery options as well.

I am looking forward to tracking the progress of this bill. I am also encouraged by the many businesses in West Michigan asking the question: “How am I building a better community?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

A “Fierce Urgency.”​ Reflections on Community Development/Affordable Housing.

January 18, 2017 Leave a comment

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Yesterday, I took a picture of this quote from Dr. King, on the overhead of the Grand Rapids Urban League’s 17th Annual Corporate Breakfast in honor of Dr. Martinimg_1373 Luther King Jr.

In light of Dr. King’s quote, Co-Executive Director of LINC UP Darel Ross II spoke eloquently and boldly on the topic of Housing and Community Development.`

Grand Rapids has an Affordable Housing Crisis.

This Fall the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce hosted an Issue Summit on the topic of the Affordable Housing Crisis in Grand Rapids.

The Summit brought speakers representing many community stakeholders, including representatives from 616 DevelopmentGrand Rapids Urban League,Rockford ConstructionICCFMSHDA, and many local non-profits, including Mel Trotter MinistriesHQHeartside Ministries, on this lack of affordable housing, what is as Mayor Bliss emphasized, admittedly, “a complex issue”.

I have previously offered my own perspective, both as a lawyer representing real estate developers/investors, and as Board Chairman at Mel Trotter Ministries.

All people are valuable – made in the image of God.

There are people who are hurting in our local community.

Dr. King’s quote is applicable to us, today.

There is a “fierce urgency for now.”

What Mel Trotter Ministries is doing.

In 2016 Mel Trotter Ministries helped 216 families and individuals find permanent housing.

There is still much work to be done.

There are still a significant number of hurting families who need housing in Grand Rapids, alone.

It requires action on our part.

The easy route is apathy and complacence.

Take action.

I invite anyone reading this to join me for lunch sometime and learn what we at Mel Trotter Ministries, in collaboration with so many others, are doing to end homelessness.

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

 

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

A Lawyer’s Year-End Reflections.

December 29, 2016 Leave a comment

img_1338-002It is the end of 2016. I am having “big picture” thoughts as the year ends.

I have a pretty nice “big picture” view out of my office window.

Out of my office window from the 12th floor of 99 Monroe overlooks many ice skaters at Rosa Parks’ Circle in downtown Grand Rapids.

It is certainly a fun time of the year: my kids love Christmas break – being home from school, getting presents, visiting with family.

But right now I can’t help but feel a sense of heaviness in my heart.

My grandmother passed away last week. Traveling home to Saginaw to see her in her last days and attend the funeral was challenging.

The reality is that this time of year is hard for many people, for many reasons.

This week I was reminded specifically of this hard reality when I attended a court hearing for a real estate investor client. FYI, to any real estate owner or manager, a recent unpublished court of appeals case that you might want to check out: Anderson v Chaundy. This case provides a good example of what not to do when evicting a tenant.

If you want to feel depressed, just show up at any local courthouse for the landlord/tenant docket.

Invariably, you will see among those present, individuals whose spirits are down – for all sorts of reasons.

I was in the courtroom this particular day and couldn’t help but notice the hopelessness in the eyes of a particular individual being evicted for non-payment of rent. I also noticed the distinct smell of alcohol on this person, at 9 in the morning.

This person did not dispute that they owed rent. The result? This person would be ordered out of their apartment in ten days.

I’m not ashamed to say that as the current Chairman of the Board of Mel Trotter Ministries, I care very deeply about the homeless, hurting, and hungry.

Walking out of the courtroom, my “Mel Trotter” hat keeps my mind going…

What is going to become of this person?

Maybe they end up sleeping in their car, maybe under a bridge.

Hopefully this person ends up receiving help – to meet them where they are at. Places like Mel Trotter Ministries, that will take in families and individuals to care for them – provide them time to get into affordable housing.

An encouraging statistic – since January 2016, MTM has placed 217 families & individuals into permanent homes.

I’m not trying to bring anyone down during a festive time of year – but as this year ends I wanted to bring two “big picture” realities to the forefront:

  1. The Holiday Season aside, there remains great injustice in this world.
  2. There is great hope.

There are families and individuals that are truly hurting this holiday season.

There are people who have lost loved ones; lost homes. People who are victims of injustice.

The good news is that we can all do something to offer hope to the hopeless.

You can volunteer or provide a year end gift to support organizations locally, like Mel Trotter MinistriesKalamazoo Gospel MissionKids Food Basket, Volunteers in ServiceWestwood Christian ServicesHQ Grand Rapids, Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, or globally, like International Justice MissionCompassion International, and many more.

I hope you will join me in this Christmas season and send out gifts and prayers to make an impact in the lives of those hurting.

Update on Community Development and Affordable Housing: Is an Answer Found in Social Enterprise?

October 31, 2016 3 comments

Today the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund released its five year Strategic Plan

If you are not familiar with the CDFI, the CDFI “works to spur economic growth and opportunity in many of our nation’s most distressed communities.2015-11-26-13-04-02

“The CDFI Fund’s mission is to expand economic opportunity for underserved people and communities by supporting the growth and capacity of a national network of community development lenders, investors, and financial service providers.”

Included in the overarching goal for the CDFI’s strategic plan is promoting community development. If you have a few minutes, take a look at the strategic plan.

The Affordable Housing Problem in Grand Rapids

As many of you may know, a few weeks back the Grand Rapids Chamber hosted an Issue Summit on the Housing Crisis in Grand Rapids.

The Summit brought speakers representing many community stakeholders, including representatives from 616 DevelopmentGrand Rapids Urban League,Rockford ConstructionICCFMSHDA, and many local non-profits, including Mel Trotter MinistriesHQHeartside Ministries, on this lack of affordable housing, what is as Mayor Bliss emphasized, admittedly, “a complex issue”.

I have previously offered my own perspective, both as a lawyer representing real estate developers/investors, and as Board Chairman at Mel Trotter Ministries.Is there an answer found in Social Enterprise?

Last week Jim Harger with MLive posted a thorough article on the affordable housing crisis.

One community partner highlighted was Pastor Jim Davis and his company “Purpose Properties

“The mission of Purpose Properties is to “raise enough money from local foundations and philanthropists to buy market-rate and affordable rental properties in the city.”

According to Jim Harger’s article:

Purpose Properties plans to charge market rates for its properties to those who can afford them and use their profits to subsidize the rents of those who cannot afford market rates.”

My thoughts:

This is social entrepreneurship at its finest. Social entrepreneurs engage their community by using the power of business to solve a social problem.

We need more businesses and community stakeholders to approach our community problems like Jim Davis and Purpose Properties.

The question we should all ask ourselves: Am I working to build a better community?

Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

 

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Trending Towards Social Entrepreneurship: Update on Michigan’s Benefit Corporation Legislation.

October 10, 2016 Leave a comment

2016-07-22 13.10.20

 

House Bills 5710, 5711 & 5712 were introduced on May 31, that would allow BCorps to be formed under Michigan Law.

Although the State House has taken no formal action since June 1, in late September the House Fiscal Agency issued a Fiscal Analysis on the BCorp bills, check it out here.

The Analysis provides good background on what the legislation would do. This is helpful for those who are not overly familiar with BCorps in general.

Education on the “why” for BCorps.

Interested groups and local politicians are educating the public on why BCorp laws would be a good thing for our state.

State Rep Hank Vaupe gave a discussion to a local chamber group on B-Corps in September:

As Rep. Vaupe indicated “benefit corporations provide an opportunity for businesses to use the markets, rather than traditional charity giving, to advance their philanthropic missions.”

BCorp Certification is Trending in Michigan…

Over the last several months more and more local businesses have becoming Certified B Corps through BLabs. West Michigan has the most concentration of BCorp businesses in the State.

Recent headlines in Grand Rapids have brought attention to the need for businesses to ask the question: Am I working to build a better community?

B-Corp certification is one way (certainly not the only way) for businesses to hold themselves accountable to being a good community partner.

Why has it taken so long to get here?

Over the last several years Michigan legislators have introduced BCorp legislation – to no avail.

Check out this handout from Rep Barnett several years ago in support of the BCorp legislation he proposed in September 2010.

I found particularly interesting the very last section – it provides some comment on why some Michigan businesses may have been averse to the introduction of BCorp legislation. Feel free to read it and reach your own conclusions.

Trending Towards Social Entrepreneurship.

The trends all show that millennials and our up and coming workforce want to to be part of business as a force for good in our local community.

Questions? Comments?

Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Connect with me on Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Reflections on the Guy with the Jack Hammer…

August 25, 2016 Leave a comment

This morning I was making my commute to work on the highway – traffic was backed up and at a stand still.

Eventually, all cars started to roll along slowly (at this point, I was happy that at least traffic was moving).

Fifteen minutes and a few miles later I slowly passed the root cause of the traffic congestion…one construction guy with a jack hammer.

He was working on a small patch of concrete on the highway. Yet his lone actions closed down a lane for miles and disrupted traffic flow for so many travelers.

It is amazing to me that one person’s actions can be the cause of such disruption.

It gave me pause to reflect:

Sometimes disruption is a good thing.

It gave me pause to ask myself:

am I being a disruptive force for good?

 

A quote from Jim Elliot came to mind during my commute this morning:

 

“Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
– Jim Elliot

 

Here’s a call to living courageously each day and being a disruptive force for  good.

 

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka