In Northwest Michigan, as in much of the rest of the country, the need for increased housing stock is well documented – workforce housing in particular. To remove the many barriers of communication, finances, and policy that stand in the way, the regional non-profit Housing North was created in 2018; the following year, at a landmark Housing Summit, Housing North launched the Homes for Our Future Campaign to engage local communities in the process. Thanks to timely Housing Opportunity Grants, the Traverse Area Association of REALTORS® (TAAR) has been part of this ambitious effort every step of the way.
Last year’s Housing Summit was about putting shareholders and decision makers in the room, explains TAAR Government Affairs Director Connor Miller, who serves on the Advocacy and Communications Committees of Housing North. The campaign, a natural next step as the effort evolved, is about getting boots on the ground, he says, and creating an ‘on-ramp’ to make involvement as accessible as possible for individual participants as well as local governments and community organizations. The most recent Housing Opportunity Grant, augmented by additional funding from TAAR, is helping to develop videos, webinars, and advocacy training, among other resources, all shared on the HomesForOurFuture.org website.
“By establishing well informed points of contact in local cities, townships, villages, and counties, we’ll have created an organized network of effective advocates for workforce housing,” says Miller. “We’re empowering people to be their own advocates, and giving them additional strength to help each other through coalition-building.”
TAAR knows that the effort is a long-game, and that careful preparation can pay significant dividends down the road. Over the years, it has patiently laid the groundwork for much-needed development, tapping into the resources of the REALTOR® Party to promote the benefits of Smart Growth principles in the region; the concept is beginning to bear fruit as communities welcome the notion of in-fill development, and make walkability a priority. “And thanks to these Housing Opportunity Grants, we’ve strengthened our partnership with Housing North,” says Miller, adding, “Ultimately, working together, we’ll create an environment where both the public and private sectors, as well as residents, are focused on increasing housing stock.”
Miller cites the support and encouragement he receives from the REALTOR® Party as essential to his organization’s success. “If you have an idea that fits within their programs, their mindset is: ‘How can we make this work?’ My job is to help our members by supporting their goals and ideals; we improve REALTORS®’ value to their communities and their standing within those communities, where, at the end of the day, they are all about improving the quality of life. Time and time again, the REALTOR® Party helps us achieve that.”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Northwest Michigan are working to define and create the workforce housing their region needs, contact Government Affairs Director Connor Miller at 231-944-8315.