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New survey to address housing needs in northeast Michigan

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“We’re targeting the full spectrum of housing,” said Lenny Avery, the economic development coordinator for Target Alpena Development Corporation. “Senior housing, workforce housing, low-income housing (all) for Michigan residents. We want that American dream to be attainable for everyone.”

The United States is currently going through a housing crisis. Michigan has been feeling the effects, as a recent survey shows the state ranks third highest in the nation for rent increases and home prices continue to rise.

In Northeast Michigan, a housing needs assessment survey will be taking place starting in August. Covering 11 counties in the region, the assessment is being conducted by Bowen National Research, a company that specializes in real estate research. The company has conducted nearly a hundred housing needs assessments across the country, with the average assessment lasting between four to six months.

The assessment was requested by Lenny Avery, the economic development coordinator for Target Alpena Development Corporation. He said the study was requested as part of his work for Michigan’s Statewide Housing Plan, as the 11 northeast counties fall into Partnership E.

Avery said he has held meetings with over 60 stakeholders in the counties to discuss housing needs and the housing plan for the region. He said the original plan has been completed, and the research is being used to “drill down” and hone in on specific areas of need.

“We’re targeting the full spectrum of housing,” he said. “Senior housing, workforce housing, low-income housing (all) for Michigan residents. We want that American dream to be attainable for everyone.”

Patrick Bowen is the president of National Bowen Research and said this assessment comes amidst the country’s housing crisis. He said since the pandemic, he’s seen an increase in housing costs and in people reaching out to him for assessments.

“Entities that you wouldn’t think would be thinking about housing (are contacting us),” he said.

Bowen said their surveys consist of three pillars they tend to look at:

  • Demographics (information on the people living in the community like age, family living, etc.),
  • Economic (The average salaries, local job markets, etc.), and
  • Housing Markets (Rentals, both traditional apartments and non-conventional rooms of homes or mobile homes; and for-sale homes)

In previous surveys of Michigan areas, Bowen said he’s found Michigan homes tend to be priced around $300,000, which he said is not realistic for first-time homeowners today. He said he felt the same about home prices across the country.

“Right now it’s discouraging to see how high home prices in particular are,” he said. “Something’s gotta change, because the nation can’t sustain it.”

Along with gathering data in the field, Bowen said the company will be sending out online surveys to stakeholders, employers, and various community leaders in the northeast. He said since the pandemic, employer interest in housing issues has increased.

“Housing has now become one of those factors that’s influencing the ability of employers to hold onto and attract workers,” he said. “So we want to get to the heart of that and find out what is happening with employers … Jobs aren’t a challenge, it’s ‘Where are we going to house these workers?'”

Bowen said the survey of northeast Michigan is estimated to last four months, though early research started for the assessment in May. He estimates the first draft of the project will be ready for Target Alpena and stakeholders in December.

Courtney Boyd is a newsroom intern for WCMU based at The Alpena News
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