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Michigan Public explores five issues facing Michiganders ahead of the 2024 presidential primary election, and how they hope a president would address them. Michigan's presidential primary is Feb. 27, 2024.

Michiganders want to know what presidential candidates plan to do about the growing housing shortage

 Finding a home is tough enough.   Finding an apartment or house you can afford is becoming almost impossible for many Michiganders
Steve Carmody
Michigan Public
Finding a home is tough enough. Finding an apartment or house you can afford is becoming almost impossible for many Michiganders. (Photo: Steve Carmody/Michigan Public)

Finding a place to call home in Michigan is becoming a serious problem.

Those involved believe presidential leadership is needed to solve the state’s housing shortage.

In her 2024 State of the State address, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer described Michigan’s housing shortage in stark terms.

“Our housing stock is old. Nearly half of all units in Michigan were built before 1970. Young people cite housing affordability as one of their top concerns,” Whitmer told the audience of state lawmakers, “These are statewide challenges.”

Whitmer wants the state to spend more than a billion dollars to incentivize construction and renovation of 10,000 housing units, from single family homes to apartments. But that would only put a small dent in the problem.

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) says Michigan needs almost twenty times that number of new housing units to meet the state’s needs.

But why does the state have such a housing shortage, with Michigan’s population changing little in the past few decades.

“We used to have four…almost four and half people per housing unit in Michigan,” said Amy Hovey, MSHDA executive director, “And now we’re at just two. Just over two people in each house. So even if our population isn’t growing rapidly, we need roughly twice as much housing as we did in the past.”

Hovey says high interest rates and high construction costs simply price a new home out of the reach for three out of four Michiganders.

The Housing shortage has been evolving over the past decade.

A 2023 survey of local municipal leaders showed concern about a lack of, not just affordable housing, but also entry level and mid-level single family homes.

Melissa Milton-Pung is a Program Manager with the Michigan Municipal League.

She says leadership is needed at the federal level for more skilled job training programs, greater access to lumber and even more standardized zoning.

But topping her list of what the federal government could do is financing for new home construction.

“If we were to reduce the cost of interest for both home buyers as well as those building housing for others to rent, it would increase the attainability of housing across the board,” said Milton-Pung.

A national analyst agrees new housing is the key.

Rick Sharga is the founder of CJ Patrick company, which tracks the real estate and mortgage industries. He thinks few people will sell their homes while mortgage rates remain high.

“It’s really critical that we see the builders create as much inventory as they can with regard to new homes just so there’s something available for the people looking to buy,” said Sharga.

Despite the worsening housing shortage, there are some signs of hope.

Back in August, dignitaries and developers gathered for the official ground breaking on a 295-unit affordable housing apartment complex between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

Developer Mark Lockwood sees a need for federal policy changes including increasing federal tax credits for affordable housing and more gap funding, which are interim loans to keep projects like his moving forward.

“In Michigan, something like this couldn’t happen today, without a significant gap filler really, in the form of soft debt,” said Lockwood.

There is wide agreement, while state and local efforts to expand housing options are helpful, presidential leadership is needed to help close the gap.

Copyright 2024 Michigan Public. To see more, visit Michigan Public.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting. During his two and a half decades in broadcasting, Steve has won numerous awards, including accolades from the Associated Press and Radio and Television News Directors Association. Away from the broadcast booth, Steve is an avid reader and movie fanatic. Q&A