Michigan seeks to solve state’s affordable housing problem

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Rents and housing prices are rising in Michigan as existing housing infrastructure needs updates to improve energy efficiency and eliminate outdated toxic building materials, according to a coalition of groups that last week proposed $1.6 billion in state spending.

Members of the Resilient Homes Michigan coalition are working to bring workers to the state and upgrade rental properties so low-income families live in homes with clean air and non-toxic materials. Michigan has struggled to maintain its population, even losing a congressional seat after the 2020 census.

About 320,000 renter households in the state have incomes at or below 30% of their area’s median income. 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 units for that 71%, the coalition reports.

Scarcity is not the only problem.

The median age of homes in Michigan was 36 years old in 2000, according to a state analysis. This was before the ban on lead and asbestos. Michigan residents should live in homes that keep them healthy and safe, members of the Resilient Homes Michigan coalition said at a news conference.

The coalition’s spending plan is a one-time investment to not only reduce the monthly cost of living, but also improve the longevity of homes, said Jason Cole, executive director of the Michigan Minority Contractors Association.

“And another cause for concern is the high rate of lead mold and asbestos in homes today. We have to do something people,” Cole said.

The coalition’s plan includes $1 billion to repair existing homes, remove lead and asbestos, replace insulation, and repair and update homes to make them safer, with reduced utility costs. It also includes the construction of 3,000 new affordable single-family homes.

Coalition leaders called on the Legislature and Governor Gretchen Whitmer to incorporate their proposed spending plan into the state budget.

The plan is intended to complement the state’s five-year plan to improve housing equity, which Whitmer’s office unveiled last week. The Statewide Housing Plan aims to build or rehabilitate 75,000 homes.

“Every family deserves a safe and affordable place to call home so they have a solid foundation to pursue their potential, but too many Michiganders don’t have that in their communities right now,” Whitmer said in a press release. “If we can do this, we can help those in need of housing get the dignity they deserve and ensure Michigan maintains a competitive edge in attracting and retaining talent as we grow our economy.”

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Anna Liz Nichols is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.

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