Affordable housing advocacy group bikes to Grand Rapids to volunteer on housing project
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A group of young bicyclists is currently riding across the United States to advocate for affordable housing, and helped a local housing organization in Grand Rapids along the way.
Based in Philadelphia, Bike and Build is a nonprofit advocacy group that bikes across the country, stopping at dozens of cities to volunteer at local affordable housing organizations.
The group stopped in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, July , to lend a hand at Dwelling Place, a local organization founded in the Heartside neighborhood.
Dwelling Place works to provide affordable housing support services around the area to revitalize neighborhoods.
Bike and Build volunteers spent most of Wednesday removing old furniture from Ferguson Apartments at Sheldon Blvd., which is run by Dwelling Place.
The furniture removal help was much needed by Dwelling Place, as they will soon begin renovations to the apartment complex at the end of the summer.
“Right now, our biggest need has been moving all this old furniture out of this building because it’s a ton of manual labor,” said Amy Henderson, Dwelling Place volunteer coordinator.
The volunteers went through each of the rooms in the complex and removed the furniture. The work took a lot of heavy lifting as the group carried furniture out of the building’s six floors in hot and humid weather.
The Ferguson Apartments complex was constructed by Dwelling Place in , and before that the building served as a hospital.
The renovations to Ferguson Apartments will cost about $ million, which will be financed by low income and historic tax credits, said Stephen Wooden, Dwelling Place housing and community development associate.
The renovation project will include repairing the flooring, putting in new cabinetry and appliances, and upgrading a rooftop deck to add more green space to the development.
“We firmly believe that everybody deserves a quality dwelling place to call home,” Wooden said. “That means we need to make the necessary renovations to ensure that our residents have a quality affordable place to call home.
“Bike and Build was great to come in and facilitate with this first step in our renovations.”
Founded in New York, Bike and Build has been pedaling for affordable housing since . Last month, the group embarked on a northern U.S. tour which will take them from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Bellingham, Washington.
With each stop, one thing becomes abundantly clear, volunteers said: There is an affordable housing crisis in the United States.
“Clearly there’s units in this complex, so that’s at least people who need housing in Grand Rapids,” said Meghan Higgins, , one of Bike and Build’s riders from Cheshire, New York. “Helping out with organizations like Dwelling Place has really shown me how much of an affordable housing crisis there is in this country.”
For volunteer Julie Maloney, Bike and Build is an important organization because it helps bring national awareness to the housing problem.
“It needs to be dealt with,” said Maloney, , of Breezy Point, New Jersey. “I think everyone needs to know about this issue, because sometimes it’s not always out there in the public eye.”
Wooden believes it will require help from the entire West Michigan community to address the crisis.
“We cannot deny that we’re reaching a critical level in our community and it’s going to require everyone – nonprofits, local government and everyday people – to come together to tackle this crisis,” he said. “The fact of the matter is, we have a shortage of affordable homes for folks here in West Michigan.
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