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Renderings of The Leonard mixed-use project in downtown Muskegon. (COURTESY IMAGE) Renderings of The Leonard mixed-use project in downtown Muskegon. (COURTESY IMAGE)

Muskegon city officials consider reducing dwelling unit sizes to achieve more affordability

BY Tuesday, September 13, 2022 05:32pm

MUSKEGON — The Muskegon Planning Commission will again consider reducing the minimum size requirements for houses and apartment units at its Sept. 15 meeting in a move to facilitate more infill and affordable housing projects.

Developers say they’re interested in building studio apartments in downtown Muskegon, but the city’s zoning ordinance currently does permit unit sizes small enough to allow for that kind of development, said Mike Franzak, city of Muskegon zoning administrator/economic development planner.

The Planning Commission will consider an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance to reduce the minimum size requirements for single-family houses, rowhomes, duplexes and small multiplexes (up to six units) from 850 square feet to 550 square feet. Officials will consider reducing minimum size requirements for large multiplexes (six units and above), mixed-use buildings and accessory dwelling units from 650 square feet to 375 square feet. 

Housing advocates across the region have long pushed for reducing required minimum sizes of dwelling units and finding ways to increase density in housing developments as a way to achieve more attainable housing options.

“One of the city commission’s goals is housing affordability and choice,” Franzak told MiBiz. “Staff feels like this would be one of our best tools for housing prices to come down.”

The Planning Commission voted down a similar resolution 2-3 on Aug. 11. City commissioners tabled the request and sent it back to the Planning Commission for reconsideration.

The new resolution that planning commissioners will consider Thursday includes some small changes, which seem to have helped ease commissioners’ concerns and get them comfortable with the resolution this time around, Franzak said. Some commissioners voted down the earlier resolution because they wanted to implement the city’s form-based code before making the square footage requirement changes, he added, noting that the planning staff disagreed with that approach.

“We want to be able to offer housing choices for everyone,” Franzak said. “This isn’t your traditional tiny home. We’re trying to get away from that. This would be much larger than that. The public sometimes sees these adjustments and thinks it’s going to be the only option going forward, but this is just going to be one option available for new homes.”

Many narrow lots in the city could fit a smaller house under the newly proposed ordinance, Franzak said. The infill developments would blend in from the street and you would usually only be able to recognize they were a smaller home from an aerial view, he added.

The move to change the zoning ordinance to allow for more affordable options comes as the state awarded the City of Muskegon $6 million in Revitalization and Placemaking Program grants for two downtown housing projects, as MiBiz previously reported.

“We are definitely in a situation where we don’t have enough housing for the people who want to be here,” Muskegon Interim City Manager LeighAnn Mikesell said in the prior report. “We’re finding as soon as we have open units, they are sold or rented immediately. We know that in order for any business downtown to thrive, we have to have a concentration of people here. The businesses just aren’t going to make it if there aren’t people living in close proximity.”

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Read 1783 times Last modified on Wednesday, 14 September 2022 15:40
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