Is affordable year-round housing attainable?

Housing North is launching a new program to maintain and expand affordable, year-round housing opportunities.

“Communities with large seasonal populations have unique housing challenges,” said Sarah Lucas, executive director of Housing North. “There can be a strong financial incentive for property owners to focus on seasonal residents, while year-round residents struggle to find permanent affordable housing. We can see this situation in many of our northern Michigan communities, which is why finding a solution to this problem has been one of our top priorities at Housing North.”

The new program provides incentives for property owners to voluntarily record a deed restriction on an existing or newly purchased residential property.

The approach is similar to those commonly used at land conservancies.

A deed restriction can permanently require year-round occupancy in the home, either by homeowners or long-term renters.

Once recorded, the deed restriction stays with the title and would transfer to new owners in the future.

The exact amount of incentive will vary and be based on the property’s appraised value.

Lucas notes that the new approach will help address the shortage of year-round housing by utilizing the existing supply of homes and land in conjunction with encouraging new construction rather than focusing solely on new construction.

“When Housing North was first established in 2018, we looked around the country at other seasonal communities to find the most effective and successful housing policies,” explained Lucas. “The InDeed program in Vail Colorado stood out as a voluntary approach that used incentives to solve the year-round housing shortage by taking a land conservancy style approach and applying it to housing.”

The first implementation of the new program will take place in Charlevoix, with the rezoning and purchase of a former church. Using funds provided by a local donor through the Charlevoix Community Foundation, Housing North purchased a deed restriction as part of the real estate transaction.

Charlevoix mayor Luther Kurtz was involved in the effort and expressed optimism about the new approach.

“In Charlevoix, like so many other northern Michigan communities, housing for the workforce has been a constant challenge,” he said. “It’s exciting to have another tool in our toolbox to help our year-round residents afford to live and work in our community.”

Two additional units may be added to the property, demonstrating the potential for the program to incentivize the creation of new long-term housing units. Housing North will hold the deed restriction and administer the program but will continue to work closely with the City of Charlevoix.

“The ‘Housing Conservancy’ approach brings exciting new tools to address our region’s housing shortages,” said Lucas. “Housing North will continue to work with the City of Charlevoix and other communities in our region to expand the program to meet diverse housing needs specific to each community, using this and, potentially, additional emerging conservancy-based models.”

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