Whitmer announces housing and energy affordability plans to drive down cost of living in Michigan

cost of living

(Michigan Advance/Anna Liz Nichols)

By Michigan Advance

May 30, 2024

BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced at the Mackinac Policy Conference that her administration is moving the goalpost to increase its 2026 goal of building or rehabbing 75,000 units of affordable housing by September 2026 to 115,000 and is committing to investing federal funds into 28,000 low-income households to make them more energy efficient to lower monthly energy costs.

“This year, we’re making the largest housing investment in Michigan history. … Let’s focus on how we can lower costs on two of the largest expenses people have, which are housing and energy,” Whitmer said alongside housing and environmental leaders in Michigan at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. “I think we keep our eye on the ball and recognize that lowering people’s costs and helping more people get an affordable place to live are places we should all be able to find common ground. I’m very optimistic about getting this done.”

In an interview with Whitmer before the Mackinac Conference at the governor’s residence, she said that Michigan is “ahead of schedule from the goals that we set for housing.

“So upping our investment and our timeline and our goals is one thing that will be announced [at the Mackinac Conference]. And then lowering energy costs. I think that the Biden administration has given us a lot of resources. So whether it is the housing goals or the expansion of helping lower income houses make use of better energy through … appliances or energy efficiency in their homes, etc.”

Whitmer set the original goal of establishing 75,000 additional units of affordable housing in Michigan at the 2021 Mackinac Policy, but with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) reporting that the agency has already established nearly 50,000 units ahead of schedule the goal is now being increased by 53% to 115,000.

It’s a move MSHDA Executive Director Amy Hovey told the Advance ahead of the announcement shows an understanding from the state for the widespread effects access to housing can have on local communities and the state overall.

“If we want economic growth, if we want educational attainment, if we want folks to be happy, if we want crime to go down, it’s all dependent on people having stable quality housing,” Hovey told the Advance. “The faith that the governor has put in our agency to work with partners across the state to develop even more housing and increase that goal excites me … the fact that she sees promise in our agency, and the fact that she’s increasing the goal.”

The 75,000 goal was always a big one, Hovey said—one that required state, local and federal partners to come together. Increasing the goal only reinvigorates the progress MSHDA has made.

“It really gives me that kind of re-energization that you need to go, ‘OK, we’re doing it’ because it gets tiring, you’re in the trenches, you’re trying to make significant change and bring everybody else along with and to see that people are recognizing that we’re making it happen is exciting,” Hovey said.

Housing is recognized by stakeholders in Michigan as a key part of growing the state’s population and retaining talent in Michigan’s workforce. The Growing Michigan Together Council, tasked by Whitmer to advise on growing Michigan’s population, identified housing as a priority to focus on for population growth in its report in December.

The council stated in its report that Michigan has found itself in “an unfolding crisis and must act now” as the state has fallen to 49th in population growth.

But Michigan is working on things, Whitmer said, recognizing that it’s going to take work to establish to more people that Michigan is a place to make a life.

“Things are headed in the right direction,” Whitmer said. “There are projects underway everywhere to build new housing, revitalize our communities, and create more commercial space all across our state and of course we’re fixing the damn roads. Don’t complain to me [about construction]. You’re welcome.”

The cost of living in Michigan is outpacing wage growth as the state has seen some of the highest rent increases in the country in recent years and young people especially are leaving the state in pursuit of higher wages.

Part of reducing the cost of living is driving down energy costs for residents Whitmer said, announcing that Michigan is receiving $367 million from the U.S Department of Energy’s Home Energy Rebates and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Solar for All programs.

Whitmer said these funds will work to drive down monthly energy bills for 28,000 homes in Michigan through installing solar panels and installing energy efficient water heaters, stoves and more.

“Just think about what that quality of life means for people. You can save hundreds of dollars on your bills, be warmer in the winter, you won’t have to put a jacket on to have dinner,” Whitmer said. “Your kids will walk in after a long day of hot summer fun to feel cool and calm. Your home will be less susceptible to extreme weather events caused by climate change and when you sell your home, it will be more attractive to potential buyers.”

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) will heading up the new energy efficiency funding programs and Department Director Phil Roos said the program will be available to families this time next year.

READ MORE: Whitmer talks ‘game changing’ affordable housing plan

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

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