Housing needed, no surprises there

We wished we were shocked.

Unfortunately, we found ourselves nodding as we read yesterday’s results of the Networks Northwest and Housing North survey.

We need 4,660 new houses for people to buy in 2020?

That sounds right.

An additional 10,880 rental housing units?

Yep, still nodding.

That two-thirds of the demand will be for lower-priced units (homes under $200K and rentals for less than $800 per month)?

Youíre darn tooting.

We see it all of the time, in our office and outside of it.

We, among many employers in our community, are stymied by the cost of housing when making hires.

Recent college graduates come to us saddled with student loan debt payments of $600-plus/month. That’s almost a rent payment — almost, because most of the time Traverse City rents are much higher.

Young couples, with young children here or ìon the way,î want to stay in the area to raise them but cannot find an affordable house to buy.

We know weíre not alone in wanting to keep good people around — people who want to stay but get so much more for their housing dollars elsewhere.

“This demand represents the homes that people like teachers, health care workers, emergency responders, restaurant and hospitality workers, and construction workers are looking for — and not finding,” said Housing North Executive Director Sarah Lucas.

Hard to imagine a big boom in construction when construction workers can’t find a place to live.

But itís the ìaffordableî part that seems to slow the works down most.

Developers assure us that building affordable wonít generate enough profit — not in a market like ours that can speedily move $300,000 luxury condos.

They need tax breaks and incentives to make it worth their time, they say. But even when our leaders agree with them, projects are slow in coming.

We were glad to hear of the 600-unit Brewery Creek project in Elmwood Township and hope that concerns are worked out with the surrounding community.

In the meantime, we can appreciate the studyís suggestion of divide and conquer: to subdivide existing homes to house more people in fewer structures. Looking at zoning with this in mind may help in the short-term.

But it will do little to quell the demand for nearly 15,000 new homes and rentals in our region.

— Traverse City Record-Eagle


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