Marquette Township joins housing task force

MARQUETTE — The Marquette Township Board of Trustees on Tuesday unanimously voted to join the Marquette County Intergovernmental Housing Task Force.

Jason McCarthy, planning and zoning administrator, will represent the township on the task force.

The Lake Superior Community Partnership has invited local governments to participate in the task force and discuss county housing solutions.

LSCP CEO Sarah Lucas said in a Sept. 29 memorandum to the county’s cities and townships that the state of Michigan is looking at expanding resources and programming to address housing needs, and a local government approach would position Marquette County and its local governments to take advantage of them.

“Further, many housing solutions require alignment and coordination between local units of government, and an intergovernmental task force will enable regular sharing of best practices, new initiatives and opportunities for collaboration between communities,” Lucas wrote.

At Tuesday’s meeting, township Supervisor Lyn Durant said a task group was formed that includes the cities of Marquette, Negaunee and Ishpeming as well as Marquette County.

She said LSCP wanted to include townships in the group.

“Our laws are different,” Durant said. “Cities can do things differently than townships.”

Durant also pointed out that each township is different as well.

“The group figures that if they want to try to go for grant money, if there’s an established organization — in this case, the intergovernmental task force — that they’d have a better shot at getting funding, and that’s the only reason that they’re trying to formalize this,” she said.

Durant also noted that the township would have the option of backing out of the task force later if it chooses.

However, she mentioned the possibility of funding being available.

“It’s just going to help us if we want to participate,” Durant said.

Township Treasurer Ernest Johnson favored the township joining the task force since the township has housing problems, too.

“If we’re in it, at least we can hear what’s going on and we can have our input as to what’s happening,” Johnson said.

Township Manager Jon Kangas indicated that the cities of Marquette, Negaunee and Ishpeming have the “least amount of opportunity” for growth. Instead, most of the opportunity lies within the townships.

“I think we need to play an active role in that eventually we will be hit by the impacts of this activity due to the fact that there’s only so many places you can build affordable housing in the three cities,” Kangas said.

Trustee Pete LaRue agreed with Kangas.

“Anything involving housing, I think the township’s going to be the one that’s going to step up more so than the city,” LaRue said.

Trustee John Markes said the township should exercise some caution in its involvement.

He pointed out that the city of Marquette has turned down housing projects for people with lower incomes but approved many large-scale complexes that are “far out of the reach” of people needing more moderate housing.

“We need to be very careful about our representation that we don’t encourage them to take care of the city problems by locating it in the township,” Markes said.

Durant pointed out that task force discussion has focused on housing costs.

“The lowest housing cost right now is about $220,000 to build a home, but that’s no profit for the builder, so it isn’t so much that the county or the cities don’t want to have affordable housing,” she said.

Affordability is the issue.

Durant said it’s not affordable for builders to construct a home for $150,000 or $200,000, or even $250,000 in some cases, and it doesn’t matter the community where it’s located.

“Tax-wise and property-wise, it’s going to be cheaper in the outlying areas from the city, but right now with the costs — that’s one of the biggest deterrents — is they can’t build it, and then try to sell it or develop it, for anything below a few hundred thousand,” Durant said.

Trustee Linda Winslow said the housing issue also involves rehabilitating housing in addition to building new housing.

Trustee Dan Everson, though, noted that the costs of refurbishing are “extremely high.”

“It’s not just building from scratch,” Everson said. “It’s refurbishing. Everything has just gotten so ridiculous in cost. It’s going to be equally as much to refurbish a place.”

Johnson said the township should belong to the task force to “see what’s going on.”

“If we sit on the outside, we’re out of it completely,” he said. “Things are going to happen and we have very little control.”


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