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Business owners, housing advocates call for $1.65B to meet affordable housing goals

BY Thursday, May 05, 2022 07:52pm

A group of business owners and environmental and housing advocates are calling on the state to invest $1.65 billion in affordable, energy efficient homes as the Whitmer administration also pursues a statewide housing plan.

Resilient Homes Michigan, a coalition of business owners and housing advocates, is calling on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature to allocate funding to help address the lack of affordable housing. 

The group held a press conference today to announce the MI Affordable, Healthy Homes Proposal that seeks a $1.65 billion investment to build new housing and preserve aging housing stock across the state.

“Michigan needs to do something about climbing rents, out of control prices when people are purchasing homes and increasing utility bills and unsafe and unhealthy housing stock,” Charlotte Jameson, chief policy officer at the Michigan Environmental Council, said today. “We urge Gov. Whitmer and the Michigan Legislature to make significant investment in building more affordable and attainable housing and investing in our workforce.”

According to a statewide housing needs assessment, 1.5 million, or 38 percent, of households in Michigan struggle to afford basic necessities. 

Glen Arbor-based food producer Cherry Republic is having a hard time finding employees because of the lack of affordable housing, said company President Bob Sutherland. The company is now renovating three homes for its employees to live in and also is considering building a dorm. 

“We’re spending so much of our time on housing issues and we’d like this proposal to pass in the Legislature so we can get back to selling cherries,” Sutherland said.

Statewide plan announced

Meanwhile, Whitmer this week set a goal to create or preserve 75,000 housing units across Michigan and is calling on local governments, developers and nonprofits to help implement the five-year plan. 

The statewide housing plan announced Wednesday also calls for stabilizing more than 100,000 households and increasing the energy efficiency of more than 15,000 homes.

“Every family deserves a safe, affordable place to call home so they have a strong foundation to pursue their potential, but too many Michiganders don’t have access to that in their communities right now,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This comprehensive statewide plan tackles persistent past and present housing challenges head-on. If we get it done, we can help those in need of homes get the dignity they deserve and ensure Michigan maintains a competitive edge in attracting and retaining talent as we grow our economy.” 

A public dashboard will be created to report on statewide and regional progress of implementing the Statewide Housing Plan, Whitmer announced yesterday. 

Between January 2013 and October 2021, the average sale price for a home in Michigan increased 84 percent. As well, the average number of building permits being awarded for new housing construction is less than half of pre-Great Recession levels, according to data in the Statewide Housing Plan.  

Whitmer’s housing plan also highlights the racial and geographic inequities of housing accessibility and affordability. State data included in the housing plan reports that 52 percent of the state’s homeless population is Black, despite Black residents making up only 14 percent of the overall population. 

“Creating more affordable housing is a top priority of the (Statewide Housing Plan), but we also need to understand and untangle long-standing patterns of racial discrimination and segregation that has impacted housing accessibility by emphasizing equity and racial justice in this plan,” Michigan State Housing Development Authority Equity and Inclusion Officer Tiffany King said in a statement. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to affordable housing, and we’ll need the insights, input and efforts of people from all walks of life if we are to break down these historical barriers and craft real solutions that enable greater access to affordable housing.”  

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