Meeting to discuss state of area’s housing

MANISTEE COUNTY — Of all the building blocks toward economic development, available housing could be the most crucial.

On Wednesday, the Alliance for Economic Success will host a meeting on the state of housing in Manistee County to begin discussing ways to address certain challenges the topic presents.

“We want to see what we can do to open up more options and help Manistee grow,” said Lisa Leedy, executive director of the AES. “Housing is key to driving economic development.”

The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday in the conference room at the Manistee Intermediate School District, located at 772 East Parkdale Ave. in Manistee. Local leaders, public officials and representatives from organizations that deal with housing have been invited to attend, but the meeting is also open to those in the public who are interested in the issue.

Improving the area’s overall housing landscape is a key component to the AES’s work plan for Manistee County in 2018. The organization’s “House Manistee Program” — the vehicle of Wednesday’s and future meetings — had previously collected data on housing across the county.

“We did some preliminary housing studies in the past to figure out what the needs are in the area, and the challenges we face concerning housing,” Leedy explained. “We gathered a lot of information and now we want to use it to get people engaged and plan how to move forward.”

Leedy said the discussion on housing spans a wide range of issues.

“Through this, we want to address affordable housing at all income levels; workforce housing; transitional housing; homelessness; rental needs and issues; developer challenges; really, anything that relates to housing.

“These are all separate issues, but yet fall under the same general problem. … The choices and options are fairly limited.”

Wednesday’s meeting will feature a trio of speakers: Tamara Buswinka, chair of the House Manistee Program; Sarah Lucas, director of Community Development at Networks Northwest; and Bob Collins, executive director of Home Builders Association of West Michigan.

Buswinka is expected to speak on the overall vision of House Manistee, while Lucas will address the state of housing in Northern Michigan as a region and Collins will discuss the challenges developers run in to in small communities.

Attendees will be encouraged to participate in Wednesday’s discussion as well as in the resulting action plan.

“Since we’ve had the initial conversations to identify the different housing needs, we want to move on to, ‘What do we do next? What’s going to solve this problem,'” Leedy said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but what can we start working on?”

Leedy added that many programs and organizations already exist and have been devoted to improving many of the area’s housing concerns. Further networking, she said, will be key to progress.

“Primarily, we want to educate people about (the programs) we already have, find if there are ways to improve them, and then work on building new initiatives,” she said. “What we’re hoping to do is partner and pair different resources, and basically network the different groups and people dealing with these issues.

“Together, we hope to generate some ideas and solutions, as well as find further support for the different organizations and programs already out there.”

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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