By Steve Schnell, Charlevoix County’s Housing Ready Program Director with Housing North
Everyone is impacted by our housing crisis in some way or another. The current housing market is quite lucrative if you own a home or any residential investment. But if you are not currently a homeowner, you will most likely struggle to find something within your budget. Across the state, especially northern Michigan middle income families $250k and above are being pushed out or moved to house prices above their comfort levels ($400k+). Even if you own a home and can make your mortgage payments, you are still impacted by the housing crisis.
The following are some examples of how housing challenges impact the vitality of our communities:
Hiring – If you are an employer, you are finding it harder to recruit employees who do not already live here. Your employees are living farther away, which means that the reliability of their transportation is more important than ever, and the costs of their transportation are higher than ever. This creates a situation where employees are susceptible to leaving for a job closer to where they live in the other community where they may be more invested. Data shows people who live closer to their job are more likely to work and they experience shorter terms of joblessness.
School Enrollment – If the community does not have housing adequate for its residents there will be families who are not able to live within the school district. School enrollment will continue to decline. Local businesses that need seasonal help, which often rely on young family members, will not have adequate staffing to serve their customers. Service at local restaurants and retail stores will suffer.
Short Term Rental Competition – Housing price increases are partially due to competition for short-term rentals. Homes that used to be rented long term are now being converted to short term rentals, reducing the number of year-round housing units, and increasing home prices. Renters may have difficulty finding a place to rent as more long-term rentals are converted to short term vacation rentals. In fact, currently there is a bill (HB 4722) working its way through the state legislature that could take away local control of these short-term rentals.
Representation in local government – Many of those who need housing that is not met by the market are not often represented in local government. People who struggle with housing are often working more than one job and do not have the time to dedicate to a volunteer or elected position. When given an opportunity to grow into housing as your life situation changes and your career evolves, typically beginning as a renter and evolving into a small starter home then owning a larger family home, a person and then a family can become an integral part of the community.