The housing crisis: Is Michigan’s working class being left behind?

An issue that is impacting Michiganders from all backgrounds, ages, and race is the housing crisis.
Updated: Nov. 14, 2023 at 6:00 PM EST
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MICHIGAN (WNEM) - An issue that is impacting Michiganders from all backgrounds, ages, and race is the housing crisis.

It shows up in various ways such as not being able to afford rent, buy a home, or have accessibility to affordable homes or apartments. In the last 10 years alone, for sale housing has gone up 80 percent, according to Michigan’s Annual 2021 Housing Report.

The high cost of rentals and mortgages is impacting people in mid-Michigan as well. Jasmine Brooks, 27, of Saginaw, is an aspiring actress with Hollywood dreams and is now back in her home state after spending time auditioning across the country, from Minnesota to New York. Similar to other people in mid-Michigan, Brooks is now struggling to find housing and has found a community at the Mustard Seed Shelter in Saginaw.

“It gives you a break from the world. You can focus really on you and the goals that you have set for yourself,” Brooks said when asked about her time so far at Mustard Seed Shelter.

Due to the housing crisis, the ladies there, along with their children and people in shelters across the state, are staying longer than usual.

“I actually didn’t think I would be here for 10 months. I actually thought the process was going to be very quick but it wasn’t. It’s just now jump-starting. So yeah, I am looking for places,” Brooks said.

Brooks is like many others looking for affordable housing - in need of housing now but forced to wait.

Joel Arnold, the planning and advocacy manager for Communities First, Inc., describes the housing crisis as “really multi-faceted.” It is leaving thousands of Michiganders, like Brooks, without a home and struggling to find somewhere that is safe, reliable, and affordable.

“This is not just a California problem or a New York problem, this is a Michigan problem,” said Glenn Wilson, president and CEO of Communities First, Inc.

Right now in Michigan alone, there is a need for 190,000 housing units and that number is expected to increase.

“When you think about that high of a number that’s just going to happen in a few years, you’re going to have over 2.5 million people that could be looking for housing,” Wilson said.

The housing crisis is making an impact in Michigan in multiple ways such as affordability across all levels, whether it’s people looking to rent a unit or those looking to own a home dealing with interest rates. The cost of building is also becoming a challenge.

Another layer to the already complex issue of housing in Michigan is housing diversity.

“We are often missing things like duplexes, triplexes. A lot of those types of houses, townhouses, so the housing crisis is again affordability, availability, accessibility for people with disabilities but also just diverse types of houses,” Arnold said.

The big question now has become how to fix it.

Tim Klont, director of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s partnerships and engagement division, is part of a team tackling the crisis with a first-of-its-kind statewide housing plan. Discussions started in 2020, and the plan was published in 2022. It was broken down into 15 regions in the state.

“That plan seeks to accomplish a few things. First, we want to cultivate and sustain a connected and collaborative housing ecosystem. Second, we want to produce or preserve 75 housing units across the state. The plan has eight priorities, 37 goals, and 134 strategies,” Klont said.

The team’s goals and priorities differ by region based on a letter system going from A to O, with region G covering counties including Gladwin, Midland, Saginaw, Gratiot, and Bay.

“We identified three priorities: communication, education, homeownership and housing stock,” said Bill Ernat, program manager for the East Michigan Council of Governments.

Region H, which covers counties including Lapeer, Genesee, Shiawassee, and Tuscola, focuses its goals on housing stock and communication.

“The housing stock is just growing in general, rental housing, housing ecosystem, specifically how we are using that to empower folks to prevent and end homelessness, and housing communication,” Arnold said.

The five-year housing plan is currently on track.

“We are on track to meet, if not exceed, our goal of 75,000 units. First-year numbers are in and they are promising,” Klont said.

Klont does admit that although this is a good start, the housing crisis in Michigan has a ways to go.

“75,0000 units is not going to solve the crisis. So we are realistic about that. So even when we hit that 75,000th unit, our work is certainly not done,” he said.

So for those like Brooks who are still looking, still waiting, and still struggling, there is hope.

“If a renter right now is feeling the pinch of the cost of the housing market, I want to validate that it is real. But that future home buyer could position themselves right now with the pre-work for when the market is more buyer friendly,” Klont said.

As the fight for affordable, accessible housing continues, Brooks said her main goal is to remain optimistic and focused.

“I look forward to just being successful and happy. It’s not the end of the world. Sometimes it seems like it, but if you just concentrate, you realize it’s not,” she said.

If you are struggling to find housing, or to pay your mortgage or rent, there are local resources available to you here.

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