2017-11-16 / Views

Government’s role in affordable housing

It was a pleasure reporting on the efforts of a downstate developer who has taken a non-governmental path in tackling the very real issue of a lack of affordable housing in Leelanau County.

Readers last week may have noticed that coverage of Tom Thomasma’s work in Maplewood Commons continued from the front page to above a story about a “housing partnership award” given to Leelanau REACH, a local nonprofit that has been working on the same subject. Please don’t read anything negative about REACH from the layout other than the stories shared the same topic. Leelanau REACH — which stands for “Resources for Economical and Accessible Community Housing” — is presently developing four 1,100 square foot homes in the Village of Northport.

REACH has been in the housing business for many years with some notable success stories, albeit on small scales.

Unfortunately, the newest Leelanau County-formed task force on affordable housing appears wallowing in its own size and a general lack of direction. Housing is a complex issue. Just determining how deeply government should wade into the issue — including how much it should spend — is a chore unto itself.

What we heard from Mr. Thomasma was nothing we didn’t suspect. Indeed, we have zoning and regulation barriers that need attention. And land prices are only a part — in many ways, a small part — of the reason Leelanau doesn’t have more affordable housing.

Government can help, mostly by lubricating construction regulation and reducing zoning barriers.

We’ve been saying that for years.

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