Solving area’s housing problems a laudable goal for new committee

Ask any young family, Northern Michigan University student or single parent looking for a place to live in the greater Marquette area, “How’s that coming?” you’re likely to get a sharp, negative response.

That’s because this area suffers from a lack of affordable housing. The problem is neither new nor easily solvable.

But finally, officialdom in the form of the Lake Superior Community Partnership has apparently recognized that something, in a broad kind of way, needs to be done.

The Partnership is heading up what’s being called the Marquette County Intergovernmental Housing Task Force. The goal, according to LSCP CEO Sarah Lucas, is to “formalize participation in a collaborative group in order to advance local housing efforts regionally and statewide.”

The city of Marquette, which already has an Ad-Hoc Housing Committee looking at some of the same issues, signed on this week. It’s hoped other municipalities will follow suit.

“I think this is a common-sense move that we’re making here in collaboration with the LSCP and other local governments,” Commissioner Evan Bonsall said at Tuesday’s city commission meeting. “It’s right in line with the (Ad-Hoc) Housing Committee’s recommendations, and we’re hopefully going to find some regional as well as some local solutions to the affordability crisis that we’re facing right now.”

Central among the basic problems, as we see it, is the simple economics behind housing development: The profit margins are much higher in upscale construction than in building affordable units.

If you’re a housing developer with money to spend, what would you do? That’s why a broad approach that involves local units of government is needed.

Marquette Mayor Pro Tem Jenn Hill said housing is a countywide issue. We couldn’t agree more.

“We’ve been working on the local task force within the city, but this is truly a regional and countywide issue,” she said this week. “I’m really glad that we are coming together to work together, and it’s going to take time and all of us coming up with good ideas. I really appreciated this.”

We’re going to watch this effort closely and hope it produces more than talk and/or reports that go on shelves to gather dust.

This is a real issue in our area that needs real solutions. We applaud the Partnership and the city of Marquette for getting out front on it. But others in the area need to join.

We trust that will happen.


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