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Supporters gather as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a four-bill housing package into law on Dec. 13. Supporters gather as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a four-bill housing package into law on Dec. 13. COURTESY PHOTO

Whitmer signs 4-bill housing package into law

BY Tuesday, December 13, 2022 05:14pm

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed into law a bipartisan four-bill package that expands incentives to build more affordable housing across the state.

The bills, which passed the state House last month, are a result of nearly two years of advocacy by a coalition of business and housing groups to eliminate financial and land-use barriers for housing developers.

Senate Bill 362 — sponsored by state Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids — allows local governments to create “attainable housing districts” that offer tax incentives for projects that target income-qualified households.

S.B. 422 — sponsored by state Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth — allows local governments to create residential housing districts that would exempt housing projects from the full local property tax rate if they target income-eligible renters.

Two other bills would expand neighborhood enterprise zones, which are similar to brownfield tax increment financing, and payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) opportunities with local governments on workforce housing.

“It’s really been a total team effort to get these bills over the line and to the governor’s desk for her signature,” Yarrow Brown, executive director of nonprofit Housing North, said in a statement. 

The Traverse City-based organization was part of Housing Michigan, a coalition of business and housing advocacy groups that initially backed the legislation when it was introduced last year. The coalition also includes the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Home Builders Association of Michigan, Housing Next and the Michigan Municipal League.

Coalition members say the legislation aims to create more opportunities for “missing middle” housing, including homes priced below $200,000 or rental units below $1,000 a month.

Private-sector construction industry executives are also pleased to see government resources directed toward the housing shortage.

“I’m happy we’re devoting more government funding to housing,” Ted Lott, co-founder of Grand Rapids-based Lott3Metz Architecture LLC, told MiBiz in a recent interview ahead of today’s signing. “We failed to do that for the last 50 years. We still have a long way to go.”

In a statement issued by Housing North, Frankfort City Superintendent Josh Mills called the bill package “monumental” for helping to address the northwestern Lower Peninsula’s housing shortage and creating new pathways for governments to work with developers.

“This critical legislation will allow our communities to better facilitate and support the necessary partnerships between the private sector, non-profit entities, and local units of government to create the necessary attainable housing opportunities that best serve the needs of our communities,” Mills said.

Brinks, who takes over as Senate Majority Leader in 2023, said in a recent interview with MiBiz that the Senate will continue to focus on housing bills under the Legislature’s new Democratic majority.

“Housing has been an incredible need,” Brinks said last month in reference to the four-bill package. “This is one bill package — I think there’s probably a lot more we could do on housing, so we’re putting our heads together on that beyond this package as a future agenda item as well.”

MiBiz Editor Joe Boomgard contributed reporting to this story.

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