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Traverse City Rents Swell With Housing Demand

Record-Eagle story reflects city’s expanding housing needs

Great Towns | September 20, 2012 | By James Bruckbauer

About the Author

James Bruckbauer is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s transportation policy specialist. Follow him on Twitter at @jimbruckb. Reach him at james@mlui.org.

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Young people and young families want to live where they can bike downtown, walk to schools and parks, and shop at a nearby grocery store. But high rent prices are forcing them to the outlying areas where they have no choice but to drive to meet their basic needs.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle last week published a telling story about an issue that’s often overlooked these days in Commission meetings: The need for more housing options in Traverse City.

The article describes how high rent prices prevent young people and families with decent-paying jobs from living in Traverse City.

Glenn Puit writes:

“Even families with decent-paying jobs, officials said, are increasingly struggling with rental costs in Grand Traverse and surrounding counties. It forces wage earners to drive long commutes from outlying areas, where rents are cheaper, to their jobs in Traverse City.”

MLUI’s report, Families on the Edge, brought to light similar findings. According to our research, young people and young families want to live where they can bike downtown, walk to schools and parks, and shop at a nearby grocery store. But high rent prices in town are forcing them to the outlying areas where they have no choice but to drive to meet their basic needs.

As young people and young families are pushed farther away from their everyday needs, they become vulnerable to shifts in gas prices and even more dependent on their cars for getting around. In turn, Traverse City neighborhoods can’t seem to find relief from streets that are clogged with commuters just trying to get to work.

How can we reverse the trend? It’s going to take political will and a firmer understanding of our housing needs among Traverse City’s vocal neighbors.

Since the high rent prices are caused by the pent-up demand for housing inside the city limits, the Institute recommends a strategy that aims to fill that gap.

The overarching goal: Advance policies that support more housing that is close to shopping and jobs that working families can afford and allows them to drive less.

In the report, we made the following recommendations to local governments, including Traverse City’s:

Prepare downtown and it’s surrounding neighborhoods for more people: Traverse City’s commercial districts need more sewer and water capacity to serve higher-density, affordable housing and other economic development.

Cut permitting and approval delays: Communities committed to increasing affordable housing must cut their permitting and inspection times. Developers cannot afford the high cost of unreasonable, bureaucratic delays.

Make ‘Affordability’ Mandatory: A simple zoning tool, “inclusionary zoning,” requires new housing projects to include affordable units. Mixed-income housing projects are more stable and vibrant.

Keep supporting Grand Traverse County’s Affordable Housing Trust FundUsing creative financing mechanisms, community-based affordable housing trust funds can lower development costs for projects that aim to make housing affordable.

Encourage banks to offer 'Location Efficient’ MortgagesBig transportation savings come with in-town living, and lenders should view that as additional income. This allows families to take out higher-value mortgages and purchase more living space.

Support more inclusive “Granny flats” policies: Apartments or guest houses above garages let people live in town and homeowners to make some money. The City’s current policy restricts granny flats to people with special needs. 

To learn more about how you can get involved in supporting more housing in our cities and towns, check out and follow the Grand Vision’s Housing Solutions Network.

1 Comment

4248 days ago, 4:53pm | by Valerie | Report Comment

Yes Yes!! This is a huge issue! Home foreclosures have also driven up the price of rent due to increased deman for rentals. The granny flats are much needed, as well as more downtown apartment complexes.

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