LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Hundreds descended on the Michigan Capitol building today demanding reforms to Michigan’s rental laws.
Concerns about affordable and safe housing options have been a growing concern for more than a year in the greater Lansing community, but the attendees at the rally came from all over Michigan to voice concerns.
Chanting “The rent is too damn high!” the crowd shared stories similar to those revealed in numerous stories about poor housing conditions in mid-Michigan – from the Simtob properties crisis to the recent reporting on filthy broken apartments in Bath Township.
Those concerns have led to a call for a renters’ bill of rights. State Rep. Emily Dievendorf (D-Lansing) is a co-sponsor of that legislation. Rally participants say adoption of the legislation is one of their four demands.
In the post-COVID world, landlords have cranked up the cost of renting, while many renters are still holding on with the same financial resources they had before the pandemic. Rents have increased as much as 22 percent in the last three years, 6 News media partner MLive reported in July.
Jessica Colby, a full-time office manager, says she was squeezed from her one-bedroom apartment from rent increases. Her rent went from $660 a month to $1,200 a month.
“I live in actually in a 1-bedroom apartment at my parents’ house because I had to move back home and I’m 46 years old,” she says. “It’s something I thought I would never have to do.”
She’s not alone. Chris Bethea is a cook. He says his month is $1,000 – and he had three roommates.
“I’ve never lived on my own,” he says. “I’ve never been in a position where I could afford to live on my own. That was a dream that they painted for us, as kids, that is just not even nearly feasible now.”
In addition to calling for passage of the renter’s bill of rights legislation, activists also want regulation limiting how much a landlord can raise rent annually. They also want $4 billion to invest in at least 50,000 new affordable housing units across the state and $1 billion for ‘Housing First’ assistance for people experiencing homelessness.
The Renters’ Bill of Rights is designed to prevent landlord abuses and to protect renters.
Karrington Kelsey says he lived in a house where his newborn was exposed to possible disease,
“I have a newborn,” he says, “and for the first six months of her life, I had to live in a house that had bats.”
Kelsey helped organize the rally.
“There are powers that need to actually do their job,” he says. “Not focus on building money in these developers’ pockets, but building housing for the people who pay their taxes regularly. The people who catch the bus up and down this street, who keep this city afloat.”
Some relief is coming. In the last few weeks, developers in Lansing have announced plans to develop workforce housing and affordable housing. A development partnership announced a $215 million investment to create 450 new residential units in downtown Lansing early last month. At the end of August, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority announced it was supporting a $1.497 million tax credit for the Lansing Housing Commission to build a 56-unit building at Cherry St. and Kalamazoo St. And just last week, Ingham County announced $2 million in affordable housing funding initiations.
Colby, the 46-year-old whose rent doubling resulted in her moving home, says she hopes the rally sheds light on the housing crisis.
“We gotta do something to make it stop,” she says.