Marquette Housing FAQs, Part 1: Why does the Housing Committee exist?

DISCLAIMER: This blog is written by Marquette City Commissioner Evan Bonsall, who also serves as the Chair of the City of Marquette Ad Hoc Housing Committee. The views expressed in this blog are his own, and do not represent the views or imply the official endorsement of the Ad Hoc Housing Committee, the Marquette City Commission, or any of the individual members of the Ad Hoc Housing Committee or City Commission.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing a series of 100% factual, non-sensationalized, spin-free blog posts answering some “Frequently Asked Questions” about the recent Marquette Ad Hoc Housing Committee Initial Report[i], and about housing in Marquette in general. For today, I will start at the beginning:

Q: Why was the Housing Committee formed, and when?

A: When I was elected to the City Commission in 2019, my top priority was making housing more affordable for everyday Marquette residents. A true housing affordability crisis existed in the City of Marquette, and little has changed since then – the median sale price of a single-family home has risen from about $175,000 in 2015 to $220,000 in 2020[ii]; median rent rose 21% from 2015-2019 alone[iii]; 1 in 6 Marquette homeowners and 55% of Marquette renters are “cost-burdened,” meaning they are forced to spend more than 30% of their income on housing[iv]; median incomes had risen 36% in Marquette County from 2000-2017, but during that same time period median home values rose 85% and home sale prices rose 68%[v]; the homeownership rate for Marquette residents ages 25-34 was just 8.9% in 2017, nearly 4 times lower than the national average of 34%[vi]; and there was mounting statistical and anecdotal evidence that young people and working-class families with children were leaving Marquette to find more affordable housing elsewhere, a trend which has only accelerated in the past year.

From the start of my campaign,[vii] I had stated my intent to form an Ad Hoc Housing Committee if elected. This committee would study the issue of housing affordability in Marquette and report back to the City Commission with a set of policy recommendations. Barely 2 months after being elected, I had worked with Mayor Jenna Smith to create the Housing Committee and had been appointed to serve on it myself – I was later elected chair of the Housing Committee at our first meeting in March 2020. We stopped meeting from April-July 2020 due to COVID-19, but resumed meeting via video conference on a monthly basis in August 2020. We have met 9 times in total.


Q: How was the membership of the Housing Committee decided, and by whom?

A: The Housing Committee is composed of 8 Marquette residents with a wide range of experience and knowledge. Members were appointed by the City Commission as part of an open application process, with most representing existing City committees or specific areas of expertise, but with 2 of the 8 seats reserved for everyday Marquette residents. The Committee ended up including lifelong Marquette residents and relative newcomers, residents of all ages and incomes, homeowners, landlords, renters, and people with extensive experience in planning and zoning, low-income housing, housing development, real estate, Brownfield redevelopment, housing-related community organizing, and more.[viii] The Housing Committee is NOT just a cabal of developers, landlords, and real estate agents – it is a diverse group that truly represents the larger Marquette community.


Q: What was the Housing Committee’s mission, and what tasks was it assigned?

A: The Housing Committee was tasked with studying the housing challenges facing the City of Marquette, and reporting back to the City Commission with a set of policy recommendations intended to increase housing affordability and housing choice in Marquette. Our sole purpose was to find ways to make housing more affordable and increase housing options for Marquette residents, NOT to help landlords or developers make money (they’re doing just fine on their own) and NOT to increase the City tax base. We were required to submit an Initial Report of Findings[ix] to the City Commission by Jan. 15, 2021 (essentially a polished draft designed to elicit constructive feedback from the Commission, the public, and various City departments). Our Final Report is due to the City Commission before the Housing Committee dissolves on June 30, 2021. The report that was submitted to the City Commission last month is an INITIAL report – that’s why it says “Initial Report of Findings” right on the title page. This is something that some people unfortunately seem to have overlooked.

Finally, it is important to remember that even the Housing Committee’s Final Report will not include mandates or final decisions, but recommendations – the Housing Committee is a temporary advisory board, and does not have the power to make policy. That power ultimately lies with the City Commission alone.

If you have any questions, concerns, or ideas about the Housing Committee’s Initial Report, suggestions for the Final Report, or any special knowledge or experience that you would like to share with the Committee, please reach out to me at ebonsall@marquettemi.gov or (906) 236-0247. And don’t forget to check back here and on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/evanbonsall4mqt for future housing-related blog posts!


Sources:

[i] “City of Marquette Ad-Hoc Housing Committee Initial Report of Findings.” Ad Hoc Housing Committee, City of Marquette. 15 January 2021. https://www.marquettemi.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Marquette-Ad-Hoc-Housing-Committee-Report-to-the-City-Commission-01-15-21.pdf

[ii] “Neighborhood Report – Marquette, Michigan.” Upper Peninsula Assn. of Realtors and Stephanie Jones, Realtor. 8 Sep. 2020. Appendix B in Housing Committee Initial Report of Findings.

[iii] 2015 and 2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, U.S. Census Bureau.

[iv] 2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, U.S. Census Bureau.

[v] “Housing Market Assessment – Marquette County.” Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Commission (CUPPAD), Dec. 2020, pp. 25.

[vi] “City of Marquette Ad-Hoc Housing Committee Initial Report of Findings.” Ad Hoc Housing Committee, City of Marquette. 15 January 2021.

[vii] https://www.evanbonsall.com/issues/

[viii] https://www.marquettemi.gov/adhochousingcommittee/

[ix] “City of Marquette Ad-Hoc Housing Committee Initial Report of Findings.” Ad Hoc Housing Committee, City of Marquette. 15 January 2021.

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