May 2023 -- Is the Michigan housing crisis only getting worse?
People on the coasts of Michigan are facing a housing crisis. This isn't new, but my question is - are we only seeing the beginnings of it? A recent article from Crain's Detroit pointed out that seasonal workers can no longer afford to live in the small tourist towns they power, and it's not news that Airbnb sites and second homes have driven up prices all along the Michigan shoreline. But what if this is only the beginning? In a recent article in Earth's Future, SEAS faculty members Derek Van Berkel and Maria Carmen Lemos joined others in a call for understanding how these trends might continue to escalate in a future impacted by climate migration. Put simply, the Great Lakes basin is likely to become an even more attractive place to live as climate change-fueled natural disasters and temperature extremes become the norm in much of the US. As the authors point out, some parts of the Great Lakes have long been home to some of the most affordable housing in the country, thanks in large part to the effects of post-industrial decline. But as tele-work continues to rise and migration becomes more urgent, how long can this affordable housing last? And in resort towns and other places where affordability is already a distant memory, what comes next? How does this new influx of residents exacerbate an already fraught situation? The authors repond to this by calling for participatory adaptation planning - both adaptation to the climate and to the migration. I would add to this that a fundamental pre-requisite for this participatory planning is a better understanding of how housing patterns and in particular gentrification are already playing out on the coasts of Michigan. This summer, I'm working on a project to test the relationship between Great Lakes Restoration Initiative efforts and changes in housing affordability, and I hope to have more to report in the future about other efforts the lab is tackling. All indications are that the housing crisis in Michigan is only just beginning, and it is essential that scholars take this threat seriously and develop creative ways to better understand these dynamics, both now and into the future.