Michigan looks to fix the state’s affordable housing issues
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Rents and housing prices are increasing in Michigan while existing housing infrastructure is in need of updates to improve energy efficiency and eliminate outdated toxic building materials, according to a coalition of groups who this past week proposed $1.6 billion in spending by the state.
Members of the Resilient Homes Michigan coalition look to attract workers back to the state and modernize rental properties for low-income families to live in homes with clean air and nontoxic materials. Michigan has struggled to maintain its population, even losing a congressional seat after the 2020 Census.
About 320,000 renting households in the state have incomes at or below 30% of the median income for their area. Of those households, 71% spend more than half their income on rent, leaving little money for other expenses, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Michigan is short about 203,000 affordable rental homes for that 71%, the coalition reports.
The shortage isn’t the only problem.
The median age of houses in Michigan was 36 years in 2000, according to an analysis from the state. That was before bans on lead and asbestos material. Michigan residents should live in homes that keep them healthy and safe, members of the Resilient Homes Michigan coalition said during a news conference.
The coalition’s spending plan is a once-in-a-generation investment to not only lower monthly costs of living but to improve the longevity of homes, said Jason Cole, executive director of the Michigan Minority Contractors Association.
“And another cause for concern is the high levels of lead mold and asbestos in the homes today. We’ve got to do something, folks,” Cole said.
The coalition’s plan includes $1 billion to fix existing homes, remove lead and asbestos, replace insulation, and repairing and updating homes to make them safer, with lower utility costs. It also includes constructing 3,000 new affordable single-family houses.
Coalition leaders called on the Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to work their proposed spending plan into the state’s budget.
The plan is meant to complement the state’s five-year plan to improve housing equity, which Whitmer’s office unveiled in the past week. The Statewide Housing Plan has a goal to build or rehabilitate 75,000 housing units.
“Every family deserves a safe, affordable place to call home so they have a strong foundation to pursue their potential, but too many Michiganders don’t have access to that in their communities right now,” Whitmer said in a news release. “If we get it done, we can help those in need of homes get the dignity they deserve and ensure Michigan maintains a competitive edge in attracting and retaining talent as we grow our economy.”
Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.