Many churches have provided volunteer labor to help non-profit housing organizations build and repair affordable homes.
Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church | Grand Rapids, Michigan
As the housing market in Grand Rapids, Michigan, tightens property values steadily rise. While this trend increases equity for homeowners, it has created an affordability crisis for many renters with lower incomes. Rent prices have skyrocketed, increasing by more than 50% since 2011, while area median income has increased only 18% in the same period of time. Involuntary displacement is a matter of increasing concern.
The Community Homes Initiative was launched in 2017 by the Inner-City Christian Federation (ICCF) to address the housing crisis that is quietly escalating on the edge of gentrifying areas in Grand Rapids. Groups of volunteers from around the city have joined ICCF in its effort to address the issue. When an out-of-state investment company decided to liquidate its rental house portfolio in Grand Rapids, ICCF purchased 213 housing units on 177 properties in 2017. In 2018 it acquired 35 more. Because it does not have the resources to renovate all 248 housing units itself, it is asking local churches to partner with them in caring for their neighbors by choosing a house to “adopt.”
The house at 741 Baxter Street was adopted by Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, just around the corner. When the congregation heard about the proposed partnership, it responded with immediate and enthusiastic support. In the space of one hour after a Sunday morning service, the house rehab project garnered enough financial pledges to pay for the building materials, and enough volunteers to provide the labor. Volunteers logged over 1,000 hours of work at the Baxter house. Cost of materials: $13,300.
The team of church volunteers replaced the flooring throughout the house, installed insulation and appliances, and painted the walls. They also replaced outdated features like doorframes that no longer meet building code and the worn steps and pillars on the front porch. In a matter of months, the Baxter house was transformed into a functional and attractive living space.
Calvin University students pitched in as well. They built, painted, and installed kitchen cabinets. They did most of their work at Home Repair Services, a local organization dedicated to educating vulnerable homeowners in home repair skills and assisting them with renovations. Students not only acquired practical home repair skills as well as an understanding of the history of redlining, zoning, and home finance—they also participated in a concrete response to God’s call to “do justice” (Micah 6:8).