Affordable Housing

David Cassleman

Updated June 6, 3:45 p.m. with more details on the proposal. 

More people in Traverse City would be allowed to rent out rooms on websites like Airbnb under a proposal approved by the city planning commission Tuesday night. 


It’s becoming easier and easier to rent out your home through websites like Airbnb and VRBO. But short-term vacation rentals are illegal in many areas Up North, including in much of Traverse City. 

A Grand Rapids non-profit group is hoping to boost the inventory of affordable housing in West and Mid-Michigan.

The Inner City Christian Federation is working to secure 177 houses in the Grand Rapids and Lansing areas.

CEO Ryan VerWys said the price of homes in Grand Rapids is going up “way faster” than people’s income.


A new four-story apartment building is prompting questions about the future of Traverse City’s Warehouse District.

DargaWorks wants to build a multi-use development called “Warehouse Flats” on what is now a parking lot at Garland Street and North Union. DargaWorks says the proposed 59-foot building would provide workforce housing and a public parking garage.

Acme Township to reconsider ban on short-term rentals

Jan 16, 2017

For decades, short-term vacation rentals in Acme Township have operated largely under the radar, but with a recent surge in the number of complaints, the issue has become more contentious.

The Next Idea

Say you’ve lived in your neighborhood for ten years and suddenly it’s become the place to live.

Rents are rising, and you’re looking at having to move. What then?

Stay Midtown might have the answer. The program aims to help working people in Detroit’s up-and-coming Midtown area stay there.

All over the world, vacation rental websites like Airbnnb, VRBO and are changing the way people travel. The websites promise you’ll get a more “authentic” travel experience when you stay in someone’s home instead of a hotel.

City of Traverse City

Traverse City planners say the city's laws on short-term vacation rentals are outdated.

The current rules outlaw renting your home for less than 30 days, unless you're an approved "tourist home." A tourist home is like a traditional bed and breakfast. The law says you can rent a room in your house for up to a week, but you must be present in the home and you must get a license first.

But City Planner Missy Luick says the popularity of websites like Airbnb has led many people to rent rooms illegally.


For many visitors, Traverse City is the heart of Up North.

The natural beauty is complemented by the town’s vibrant culture of fine foods, craft beer and endless festivals.

But for locals, all that popularity comes at a cost.


What happens to a picturesque city when its charms draw more and more people who want to live or work there, and when the push for new housing threatens the very thing that made that city so special?

Traverse City is wrestling with these questions right now, including the lack of affordable housing.

Aaron Selbig

Do you think Traverse City is headed in the right direction?

Join us today at 1 p.m. for an hourlong call-in program about the future of Traverse City. Our panel of guests will discuss future plans for Division Street, the need for walk and bikeability and the heated debate over tall buildings.

You can call in during the show with your thoughts and questions at 231-276-4432. You can also submit questions on our Facebook page or on Twitter (@IPRNewsRadio).

The Woda Group

Developers can go ahead with their plan to build a nine-story building in downtown Traverse City. The city commission voted last night to approve a Special Land Use Permit - or SLUP - for the project. The vote came well after midnight, after three hours of public testimony. 

Mike Jackson took issue with the idea that the building would provide much-needed workforce housing.

“This project is not about affordable housing or workforce housing for our young citizens," said Jackson. "This project is all about making the wealthy a little bit more wealthy.”

David Cassleman

Throughout this series, we’ve heard from a number of listeners concerned about the cost of housing in northwest lower Michigan.


Almost nothing is happening that would improve the situation for people struggling to find an affordable place to live.


Builders and developers are building new homes in the region. But they’re more expensive homes, and they’re being built in or near Traverse City, where land is the most costly.

But a developer named Bryce Gibbs has a new house on the market for $89,000, and his future plans include building historic replica homes that are affordable.

Aaron Selbig

It wasn’t that long ago when downtown Traverse City rolled up the sidewalks once it got dark. But now the place is booming pretty much year-round.

All that growth has spurred a debate about over what the city should look like 10 or 20 years from now.

One area that city planners are focusing on is West Front Street, where a construction project this summer created new bike lanes and crosswalks – and lots of new signage meant to slow traffic down.



The WODA Group

A proposal to build two nine-story mixed-use buildings in downtown Traverse City ran into a buzzsaw of opposition last night. Residents warned the city commission the buildings would change the character of downtown.

But supporters say the extra housing is desperately needed for the city’s growing workforce.

Northern Michigan’s tourism industry is huge. Likely this summer alone you or someone you know has headed up that way at least once.

At first blush, that sounds as though all that tourism is nothing but great for the economy. It creates a lot of jobs at businesses like restaurants and hotels.

The Motor City Blight Busters are developing Veteran's Village Center, which provides housing for veterans and the opportunity to work with their organization.

The Center is currently under renovation. It’s located in Northwest Detroit near other properties owned by Blight Busters. 

Traverse City planners say nine homeowners have already applied to build “granny flats” on their property. A new law allowing the small apartments went into effect Thursday.

Planning Director Russ Soyring says the first step for all of them is a review process from the city planning department.

“And then we just process it like … you’re applying for an addition to your garage or your house," says Soyring. "Then, eventually, you’d take all your paperwork and go to the county construction code office and make an application for a building permit.”

Six months after its creation, the Grand Traverse County Joint Housing Task Force has finished its work.

The task force was formed last October to bring together county, township and Traverse City leaders on housing issues. It will hold its final meeting today.

County Planning Director John Sych says the task force was never supposed to last long-term.

“This was really just intended to … bring some of our elected leaders up to speed (and) identify some key actions that they can continue onwards, after the task force has concluded,” said Sych.

Aaron Selbig

Affordable housing is hard to find up north. If you want a vacation rental for a week, it's not too difficult to find one. But it can be tough to find an apartment or house to rent in the long term, especially if you're lower or middle-income.

And, of course, affordable is a relative term.

Aaron Selbig

A new development in Traverse City hopes to put a dent in the area’s affordable housing problem. When it’s finished, Carson Square will provide 36 new low-cost apartments. 

Carson Square has been nearly three years in development but Wednesday morning, it was time to break out the ceremonial shovels. 

The project is meant for people who can’t otherwise find a place to live but Goodwill Executive Director Cecil McNally says that group includes people you might not think of when you hear the word “homeless.”

The Traverse City Commission has cleared the way for “granny flats” to be built throughout the city. Ten homeowners per year will be allowed to build the small apartments attached to their house or garage.

The commission’s decision last night came after months of debate. Many homeowners argue the plan will harm the character of Traverse City’s historic single-family neighborhoods.

“With every bit of heart I can offer, please don’t do this," said Christine Maxbauer. "You’re changing the character of our city. Please don’t.”

City planners are re-working a proposal to allow “granny flats” in Traverse City. Granny flats are small apartments attached to a house or garage.

Originally, the plan required a lease of at least six months for the apartments. But the city commission delayed a vote on the issue after the city attorney said that requirement may not be legal.

Planning Director Russ Soyring said he’s working with the city attorney on a solution.