Solving the Housing Crisis
By Jeff Rea
Our region is in a fierce battle to attract and retain people. Recent out-migration patterns have favored the southeast and southwest parts of the Country. Many Midwest rustbelt communities have seen slow or no growth and are making a concerted effort to change their trajectory.
In Indiana, the Regional Cities and READI programs were aimed at doing just that. Enhancing the quality of place and building and improving communities where people want to live, work, and play was the chief focuses of those efforts. Our region has benefitted significantly from those programs. In Michigan, the efforts are similar.
One critical weapon in our efforts to combat migration and retain and attract new residents is our housing stock's quality, variety, and affordability. The regions that figure that challenge out first will be the winners of the talent attraction game.
Housing shortages aren’t unique to our region, it’s a nationwide problem traced back to the housing crisis of 2008. According to a study produced by Up for Growth in 2022, the United States was short 3.8 million units, which included both rental housing and home ownership.
If you remember, back in 2008, credit was cheap, and lending standards were lenient, which led to the housing bubble burst. Banks were left holding trillions of dollars of worthless investments in subprime mortgages. The burst ground new construction to a halt and sent many builders to new careers elsewhere.
The housing market was slow to recover as the underproduction of housing units led to low supply and high demand, which drove housing prices up and caused both homes and rentals to be just out of the affordability range for many people.
The state, cities, and towns have stepped in to catalyze new housing developments. Their efforts have resulted in tax credits and tax phase-ins, reduced land costs, expedited permitting processes, and incentives like Regional Cities and READI. Rising land and construction prices have made incentives vital for advancing critical projects and keeping those units built affordably.
This has led to a mini housing boom in our region, with new single-family and multi-family projects sprouting up all over Southwest Michigan and North Central Indiana.
The University of Notre Dame area has seen the most interest. Drive by campus and see Sideline Flats under construction on the former Mulligan’s site (27 units). Just north of that site, the “87“ is currently being built (335 units). And across SR 23 in that neighborhood, the Irish Quarter is taking shape. (30 units). Also, Brennan’s View just finished 35 Units south of campus.
Three South Bend projects were recently awarded tax credits. The Diamond View (60 units) and Monreaux (60 units), both downtown, and South Bend Thrive, off McKinley near the old Target store (54 units), will start soon.
Add to that the renovation of the former Pavilion Office Building and the addition of townhomes (94 Units), the Momentum project Downtown 12 units, and the Beacon Integrated Health and Lifestyle District (240 units), and South Bend is well-positioned to meet its housing needs.
The Mill in Mishawaka (232 Units) was recently completed, with another 215 units on tap for phase 2. Also, another 106 units are planned for downtown with the Front Street Apartments Mishawaka.
Elkhart has Stonewater at the Riverwalk-Elkhart (200 Units), on the heels of the recently completed Riverpoint West (150 Units). In Goshen, the Ariel Cycleworks (135 Units) should start soon.
The River Gate South Plymouth (40 Units) started things in Marshall County. Planned in Culver is the Culver South Main Housing Project- The Dunes (200 Units), and in Plymouth, the Water Street Townhomes in Plymouth (12 units).
North of the border, the Cornerstone Alliance and Whirlpool drive growth in Benton Harbor. The Harbor Center Project (12 Units), the Emma Jean Hull Flats Project (80 units), and the Colfax/Wall Project in Downtown (55 Units) help add a variety of new housing opportunities to Berrien County.
On this list, that’s about 2,400 new housing options either recently completed, under construction, or planned for the urban areas of our region. That should help fill several critical gaps and help our region attract and retain the top talent it seeks. Next, we’ve got to ensure we have the jobs for them!