Housing committee’s final report approved

MARQUETTE — A motion to endorse the recommendations of the Ad-Hoc Housing Committee’s final report was passed by the Marquette City Commission on Monday night. The motion passed 6 to 1, with Commissioner Fred Stonehouse casting the dissenting vote.

The Ad-Hoc Housing Committee’s main purpose is to examine the issue of housing affordability in Marquette and report those findings to the Marquette City Commission with policy recommendations. The committee was founded in 2020, making it a fairly new group.

“As our committee, we try to be representative of the different committees and boards that relate to housing within the city of Marquette, but also the broader communities. This is why we brought in people with special knowledge about real estate, housing, and why we brought in just every day city residents to our committee,” Ad-Hoc Housing Committee member and Marquette City Commissioner Evan Bonsall said.

The recommendations were divided into five major sections:

≤ define the city’s role in affordable/missing middle housing

≤ review and update city policies and codes

≤ seek partnerships

≤ community engagement

≤ implementation


What is missing middle housing? According to Dan Parolek, President of Opticos Design and creator of the term “middle housing” in the final report, “missing middle housing is a range of house-scale buildings with multiple units — compatible in scale and form with detached single-family homes — located in a walkable neighborhood.”

Bonsall explained at the meeting, “missing middle housing doesn’t just refer to a price range, it’s also a particular type of housing. I think we would consider this to also include small single family homes on smaller lots in Marquette.”

What is affordable housing? According to the committee’s final report of findings, “housing is considered ‘affordable’ for a particular household if that household spends 30% or less of their gross household income on all housing expenses.”

In a Marquette County Master Plan Community Survey conducted in 2019, 75% of Marquette residents who took the survey said they believe there is a need for more “affordable housing” in Marquette.

Prices rising

Paul Schumacher made a public comment at Monday’s meeting, stating, “I was a resident of Marquette until recently, I had to move out of town due to the problem with affordable housing. Affordable housing to me is somewhere that you can have a job, a decent job, and be able to at least get a decent apartment. For elderly people trying to find a place to live in this town is virtually impossible, unless you’re a rich retiree with a lot of money.”

The report of findings by the committee states, “the median sale price of a single-family home has risen from about $175,000 in 2015 to $220,000 in 2020. Median rent is up 21% from 2015-2019,” and that “8.9% of city residents ages 25-34 are homeowners, vs. 34% of 25-34 year-olds nationwide.”

Moving forward

The goal of reviewing and updating city policies includes looking at zoning and permitting reforms and updating city plans and data sources.

Seeking partnerships with local and statewide organizations are also a key factor prioritized in the report. This includes working with housing developers and service providers.

Seasonal residents, or “snow birds” were an additional topic of interest at the meeting.

“What if Marquette gets bigger? There are more people who want to live here than have lived here in the past,” said Commissioner Jenn Hill. “A part of the unique part of the Upper Peninsula is that we have seasonal residents. I think we can take this as a first step in starting towards understanding what the future of Marquette is going to look like and where people are going to live. There are types of housing, that given the different age ranges of the people who want to live here that we need, I think the report has done a good job of identifying those things.”

Now that the motion has passed, the next step is for the recommendations to go to the Marquette City Planning Commission, which will consider incorporating them into the community master plan.

“I feel like we’ve had a lot of really good conversation on this topic. We may not all see eye to eye, but at the end of the day we all want people to be able to afford to live here,” said Mayor Jenna Smith.


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