Tiny Houses Could Relieve Northern Michigan’s Affordable Housing Crisis

January 13, 2020

Tiny houses could fill the gap in affordable housing in Northern Michigan. According to the Crawford County Avalanche, local developers have proposed to build tiny houses on two parcels of land near downtown Grayling to help combat Northern Michigan’s affordable housing crisis.

Preliminary plans for the development were recently presented to the City of Grayling’s Planning Commission. Flint-based FUNchitecture would be working with business partners Thomas Steffan and Fred Fabian to design the homes.

Shannon Easter White, the owner and president of FUNchitecture, says the properties would accommodate Michiganders of all ages.

“We have a vision that they wouldn’t look cookie-cutter,” said White. “You could have a different variety of siding and shingles and each home could be customized as the owner wishes.”

The tiny houses would vary in size from 16 feet by 30 feet to 20 feet by 27 feet. Twelve to 15 feet would be between each house. This would provide enough space for pets as 36.5% of all U.S. households have a dog.

Each house would have a combination kitchen/living room, an upper-level loft, a wall heating/cooling unit, hot water heater, and a stacked washer/dryer. A two-car driveway would also be constructed.

Tiny houses reduce carbon pollution, which could be cut by 550 million metric tons every year by 2050 with the widespread use of efficient appliances and improved weatherization. They also help to cut back on waste, 75% of which isn’t collected in large cities.

It hasn’t been decided whether the tiny houses would be for sale, rent, lease, or sold as condos. But in any case, housing development of any kind is needed in Northern Michigan. Nationwide, only 840,000 single-family homes were built in 2018.

Developers across the U.S. have been hesitant to invest in residential housing since the real estate market crash in 2008. But this hesitancy has played a part in the housing market’s low inventory, which has skyrocketed housing prices and rental costs. Even landscaping can increase a home’s value by 14%.

According to Networks Northwest and Housing North, there will be demand for nearly 11,000 new rental units at $800 a month or lower throughout Northern Michigan in 2020. The demand for houses under $200,000 is also expected to climb.

“We hear so much about the housing shortage and it’s a huge problem,” said Sarah Lucas, the executive director for Housing North. “I mean if you talk about any problem in northwest Michigan it ultimately comes back to housing, you can’t have a conversation about anything without talking about housing.”

Michiganders that are in need of affordable housing now have been turning to campgrounds, shelters, couch-surfing, and tenancy in motels.

One regional report found that moderate-income households spend up to 73% of their income on housing and transportation. The average price of a new vehicle alone is $35,309. To afford the average rental without paying for a vehicle, an employee earning minimum wage would need to put in 65 hours of work per week.

“It really just tells how big the issue is,” said Michael Cain, the city manager of Boyne City. Just a few years ago, Cain says only housing advocates were talking about the affordable housing issue in the area. “Now every person we deal with is concerned,” he said.

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