Detroit Regional Chamber > Mackinac Policy Conference > How Employers Can Help Solve Michigan’s Housing Affordability Crisis

How Employers Can Help Solve Michigan’s Housing Affordability Crisis

May 31, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Create regional funding opportunities to connect developers to regions.
  • Employers can get fiscal return on affordable housing investments.
  • Advocate for subsidy and policy.

Businesses of all sizes and geographies have made it clear that housing costs and the lack of housing availability in Michigan negatively impact their ability to recruit and retain staff. But businesses can also be agents of change in the housing landscape, leading to positive outcomes for their companies, employees, and communities in the Detroit Region. During the 2023 Mackinac Policy Conference, the following experts came together to dive into just how employers can narrow the housing gap:

  • Jared Fleisher, Vice President, Government Affairs and Economic Development, Rocket Companies
  • Shannon Morgan, Managing Partner, Renovare Development
  • Donald Rencher, Group Executive, Housing, Planning, and Development, City of Detroit
  • Bob Sutherland, President, Cherry Republic
  • With Amy Hovey, Executive Director, Michigan State Housing Development Authority, as Moderator.


Affordable Housing Issues Affecting All Income Levels, Regions

Hovey kicked off the session with a few sobering statistics on how Michigan’s housing gap has grown significantly. For example, Michigan’s housing size—or the average amount of people per household—has shrunk from four people to two per household. Hovey also mentioned a significant increase in short-term rentals and second-home ownership, which worries her now more than ever.

“Typically, affordable housing issues have a negative connotation of people who don’t work or are not working enough,” Hovey said. “No, it’s hitting everyone in our communities now.”

According to all the panelists, these housing issues are not just by income level; it is happening in all types of communities across Michigan and the U.S.

“Housing should be and is a key point of the economic strategy,” Rencher said. “You have to make sure you’re creating an environment for people to find housing.”


Create Incentives for Talent, See Return on Investments

The panelists then shared some ways employers and local government can work on building investments now. For example, Sutherland has seen northern Michigan medical centers create housing stipends and bonuses to attract nursing talent. Similarly, Morgan has seen Washtenaw County has been working with its public schools to attract teachers.

“We need to create social impact housing…where employers can invest in housing,” Morgan added. “There is an opportunity in creating regional funding, which our employers can invest in housing.”

Rencher said this is also happening in the city of Detroit too, especially with private companies and developers, adding, “You can see people coming to the table saying, ‘we want to invest in this…it really takes coordination among our private and public sectors across city and state investors.”

Hovey agreed, adding, “There are businesses developing houses…but they’re also making money on the housing that they’re developing.” This includes some businesses purchasing hotels to convert into housing.


Take Advantage of Existing Incentives; Connect with Legislators for Policy and Subsidy Changes

The panelists, especially Fleisher, agree that another immediate action item for employers is to connect with their local and state legislators and advocate for better subsidies and policy development.

“I’m all for companies applying for [grants]…but I think our issues have to come from housing policies,” Fleisher added. “We need subsidy, there’s no other way around it…”

Rencher echoed, adding, “If you’re a big business, I don’t need you to figure out affordable housing. I need you to advocate.”


This Mackinac Policy Conference session was sponsored by Michigan State Housing Development Authority.