Stories of Our Benevolent Landlords Pt. 1

The lack of affordable housing in Ottawa County is creating challenges for our Affordable Housing Team. We have funding to support families seeking housing, and we have a waiting list of families who are eligible for assistance, but few affordable homes in which to place them. We are able to house families in need because of our Benevolent Landlords who make their properties available to those families at an affordable rate.

One of our newest landlords is Bob Johnson, the Regional Development Director in the Development and Alumni Engagement Office at Hope College. Bob and his wife, Barbara, have been landlords for some time, and recently made the decision to partner with Good Samaritan Ministries after becoming aware of the high demand for rentals in Holland and Zeeland.

“I experienced the tight rental market after placing a ‘For Rent’ sign in the yard of my Zeeland property. I was boggled by the number of calls I received – 15 in one day – and so many of those people couldn’t afford the rent. It’s difficult to understand this issue until you see it first hand as a landlord or a renter.”

In February, the Sanders family moved into Bob’s Zeeland property. The family of 6 had been split by their struggle to find affordable housing, forcing the children to stay with a friend while the parents slept in their car. “In my world, it’s an assumption that children get to sleep in the same bed every night, but that isn’t the case for everyone,” Bob said. “I’m glad to be a part of providing security for the Sanders children.”

Between rental assistance and the family’s income, Bob collects about 85% of the rent he would receive if the property were on the market. He appreciates that Good Sam screens tenants, handles rent payments, and provides consistent case management to help families on the path toward stability.

There are challenges that come with renting to a family experiencing financial insecurity, but Bob’s faith and love for real estate is what drives him to support the community through housing. “You can’t turn 2 pages in the New Testament without seeing something about caring for the poor. This is why I have a lifelong commitment to serving those less fortunate than myself. It’s a learning experience, and I haven’t yet finished learning the lesson of forgiveness and grace.”