The local group working to increase the amount of available affordable housing held its second forum last week, during which attendees devised a number of potential housing solutions.
Boyne Housing Solutions, a committee consisting of a number of local community leaders, convened a public forum on Wednesday Oct. 3 at Boyne City Hall.
“It’s just kind of like a big community brainstorm on what can we do and how can we help work towards solving the housing issues in our region,” said Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ashley Cousens…. “And, what we’re doing today is taking that a step further and we’re going to try to identify some solutions in different topic areas.”
Boyne Housing Solutions is a partnership between Boyne City and the Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce.
Attendees at last week’s forum broke into groups to discuss potential solutions to the topics they felt they were best suited to address.
Their first task was to list problems involved in the issue. Following are general findings from each group.
By and large the zoning ordinances are not conducive to being flexible to allowing development without massive amounts of hearings, process, etc. It becomes very difficult for good projects to move forward.
Costs are so high the private sector needs public involvement in order to get to the solution. There must be focus on the need and the public and private sectors must work together. What works for the public sector? What works for the private sector?
Infrastructure, development, and building costs are too high to justify the market need.
Interest rates are going up. Costs are increasing. Money is needed but is not available. Low return on investment. And, wages increase in the summer but most businesses can’t keep the payrate up year-round.
The forum then focused on devising ways to address the problems and identifying people who can help solve the issues.
1. The zoning group said zoning, while helpful, can prevent good projects from happening. To address that, zoning templates could be developed to allow projects which fit those templates to be approved in a much faster way. Changes to zoning ordinances would be required to this. The group said there have been cases where good projects have been denied while poor projects have been approved. Creating a template would reduce the amount of politics and bias which naturally enter current processes. One of this group’s members is planning to work on the proposed zoning template.
2. The public-private partnership group discussed infrastructure costs and how partnerships could help manage the cost. One solution could be to allow infrastructure costs to be paid for over time by a millage. Manufactured housing communities were discussed as well as working with the school’s building trades program, and the potential for developing unused city property for the development of housing. Agreements between the city and townships were also mentioned. This group’s plan is to talk to the relevant stakeholders regarding their ideas.
3. The projects group solutions included tax abatements, reducing the costs of projects hooking into utilities, some sort of tax contribution, the full spectrum of manufactured homes, and a potential down payment system. The group’s tasks include attending a housing convention, working toward public awareness, and looking into the tax incentive ideas.
4. The funding group discussed looking into TIF (Tax Increment Financing) as well as non-homestead tax increases, disincentives for short-term rentals, bond financing. They plan to research the non-homestead tax rates of other communities. They also will look into employer-assisted housing—this could include employers supplying funding as well as places for employees to stay.
Attendees were asked to share any final thoughts from this work session.
One attendee said she felt rental housing as an option had not been looked at closely enough and should be.
Several attendees mentioned the need for more public awareness.
One said he didn’t know how bad it was until he heard of a local manufacturer which wants to hire more workers but is finding it difficult because the qualified people can’t find places to live.
Cousens said Boyne Housing Solutions will have another session in November where they will discuss progress thus far in addition to other business.
If you would like to be involved or want more information on this project, call the Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce at 582-6222.