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State legislature introduces bills to increase affordable housing in Michigan

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jun Acculador
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Michigan lawmakers have introduced a package of bills to allow local governments to use rent control to keep housing affordable.

Under Michigan law, local governments are prohibited from enacting rent control policies.

But some Michigan lawmakers want to change that.

Democratic State Senator Jeff Irwin said rent control is an effective way to keep housing in Michigan affordable.

“But I think we need to give our local governments as many tools as possible especially while the state is doing such a poor job of investing in affordable housing.”

Irwin said the nuances of a state-wide affordable housing crisis vary depending on where you are in the state. But, he said, local control is a good response to the problem.

“It’s been illegal here in the state of Michigan for many years," Irwin said of rent control polocies. "I’m generally a fan of local control and allowing local communities to address these local concerns with strategies that make sense locally.”

Margaret Dewar is a Professor Emerita of Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. She said especially for growing cities like Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, or Traverse City the costs of housing are rising as the city expands.

“There has to be subsidy,” Dewar said. “The cost of producing and preserving housing is greater than what people can pay in rent.”

In other cities, like Detroit where housing prices aren’t rising significantly, Dewar said the problem with housing is that incomes still aren’t enough to make housing easily affordable.

“The poverty rate is so high that they are also very short of affordable housing for the population and people are very rent-burdened,” she said.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates Michigan is short roughly 200,000 affordable rental homes for extremely low-income renters.

For 70% of extremely low-income renters, housing is considered a “severe” cost burden - meaning it takes up over half of their income.