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Nearly 35,000 housing units needed by 2027 to meet demand in Kent County

"As one of the largest growing populations, we have new challenges" said 'Housing Next' representative.

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Housing demand isn't slowing down anytime soon in Kent County.

New research from housingnext.org, a housing solutions group in West Michigan, shows that Kent County has grown 5 times faster than the state. 

From 2010-20, Grand Rapids grew 5.4% and Kent County 10.9%, compared to the state at 2%.

"Basically, there's a lot of people and not not too many houses. So we're hearing that counties are growing faster than the housing market can keep up with," said Communications Director, Brooke Oosterman.

She says nearly 35,000 housing units are needed by 2027 to keep up with the population's demand. 

"That 35,000 units shortage was 22,000 units just two years ago. So we're seeing an increase of 13,000 households in just two years. So what the data allows us to do is to really understand the gravity of the situation, but also understand where the largest gaps are, and what tools are needed to fill those in," she said. 

Things like construction costs, supply chain, labor shortage, and interest rates have made it difficult for the housing market to keep up.

"We know that access to the market is one challenge. We also know that affordability in the market is another, we know that mobility in the market is a third concern. And so we work with our local municipality partners to identify what they can do within their local control, to make zoning reform changes that allow for smaller lot sizes, smaller unit sizes, so that we can make sure we're using our lands that we do currently have in the most efficient way," she said.

State leaders have also stepped up help solve the issue. The legislature recently created new residential development incentives for workforce housing via a bipartisan package of bills signed by Governor Whitmer at the end of 2022. The State is also supporting housing through the new Housing and Community Development Fund and Missing Middle Housing Program.

Despite the large goal ahead, Oosterman says that more people looking for opportunities to call this community their home is a good thing.

"This community is thriving, and we're seeing a lot of opportunity, economic opportunity for individuals. And that's a really, really good thing. But as one of the largest growing populations, we have new challenges," she said. 

With the additional support and up to date research Oosterman says they are prepared to reach their goal and continue to make improvements in the community.

 "We've got the best practices that we can use. So we're making significant progress, and if not for that progress, that number would be even bigger," she said.

Housing needs assessments are made publicly available at housingnext.org.

On the website, anyone can analyze the research and use it for their municipality planning and development purposes.

If you're interested in getting a behind the scenes look at what's happening in housing in Kent County, or being a part of the solution. You can sign up at housingnext.org/contact.

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