Task Force discusses housing shortages and rising costs in Midland



A group of Midland real estate agents, property developers, organization members and city officials are trying to address the city’s lack of affordable housing and the stigma that comes with it.

The Affordable Housing Task Force met recently to review the current state of affordable housing for Midland. The discussions ranged from the housing shortage to rising housing costs.

Sharon Mortensen, President and CEO of the Midland Area Community Foundation, chairs the task force. It meets monthly, she said.

A 2018 study of affordable housing that examined the need for affordable housing in Midland County was widely cited in the discussion. Jennifer Chappel, president and CEO of Midland County Habitat for Humanity, said the study found the county is short of 1,000 units of affordable housing. She would like to see an updated study on the current state of the county.

Even without the study, the problem was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The shortage of labor and building materials has slowed the construction of houses, Mortensen said. House prices and apartment rents have risen lately, with the average price of homes sold in Midland County rising from $ 154,000 in 2019 to $ 185,650 in 2021, said Linda Owen, associate broker of Ayre Rhinehart. This jump in prices puts pressure on the need for affordable housing.

Renting is also getting more expensive as a member of the task force says the company he represents doesn’t have apartments under $ 1,000 for monthly rent. Many affordable rental units also have long waiting lists, and other rentals are the subject of bidder battles.

“When there aren’t enough apartments, everyone competes for what’s available,” said Mortensen.

Mortensen brought up the issue of accessible housing, a group of home buyers and tenants who are not entitled to financial support but who do not earn enough to pay for marketable units. This means that there is a segment of our population that has decently paid jobs but is still struggling to find accessible housing.

Mortensen gave a few examples from across the state of workers in need of accessible housing. She said a caregiver who makes $ 27 an hour in Midland needs accessible shelter.

Murschel, Director of Planning & Community Development Grant, said creating denser and more pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, along with urban zone reform, would help create affordable housing and living.

There is often opposition from people, including some in Midland, when affordable housing projects are proposed, he said. They will answer “not in my back yard” or claim that they will bring the property down. However, Mortensen said it was not and new developments could actually add value to the property.

“We hear it all the time when we start a new construction project, and it doesn’t matter what neighborhood we are in,” said Chappel. “I always get calls (that say), ‘You’re lowering the property’s value.’ Actually no, we will increase the property’s value. We take a vacant lot that is tax free and turn it into taxable income for the community. About a few months after it was built (they say) ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’

“You really have to show people that this is not only beneficial for the community, but also for the neighborhood and the quality of life.”



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