2002-12-18 Grand Haven Tribune Commissioners resist fair housing focus groups

Commissioners resist fair housing focus groups
Grand Haven Tribune

A proposal to determine whether the county has a fair housing problem met with resistance from some county commissioners Tuesday.

The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners’ Finance Committee reviewed a proposal from the board’s health and human services committee to allocate $5,000 to initiate a “Fair Housing Dialogue.” Two focus groups would be organized, including community leaders and housing professionals to discuss whether a fair housing problem exists in Ottawa County.

“I think this is a bad idea,” said Cornelius Vander Kam, a commissioner from the Georgetown Township area. “I don’t think the county should be involved in this at all. Even though it says ‘cost not ot exceed $5,000,’ that’s just the tip of the iceburg. This is a very socialistic approached,” he added.

The focus group proposal emerged from the county board’s Health and Human Services Committeee as a compromise after a $20,000 proposal to create a fair housing center was defeated. Commissioners on that committee also questioned whether the county should become involved with the issue.

Vander Kam said there are already numerous laws dealing with fair housing issues and that the problem may best be addressed by private groups.

Jenison Commissioner Dale Mohr said the focus groups may be worthwhile because it could determine the scope of the problem without further commitment from the county.

The finance committee decided to allow the proposal to move to the county board for further discussion but did not vote on it.