Volunteers Build Leelanau's "Housing Readiness"
Updated: Jan 29
A group of Leelanau County residents has taken an important leadership role in building understanding and awareness about housing solutions.
Leelanau County represents some of the region’s extremes - with Northwest Michigan’s highest home values and highest median age, the County’s housing issues are having dramatic impacts on its workforce, seasonal economy, and business environment. With housing a rising priority and concern for the community, in 2015, the Leelanau County Board organized a task force to explore the County’s housing needs and potential solutions. The group set out to gather input from different parts of the community to better understand the issue – inviting businesses, local governments, housing agencies, builders, and more, both to be a part of the task force and to present information in public meetings. The group concluded that there were important roles for local governments to play, and that the County should continue its involvement as a convener. In 2017, the County established a committee of the Planning Commission, now known as the Leelanau County Housing Action Committee (HAC), to continue the group’s work and discussions.
Through conversations with stakeholders both within and outside the County, the HAC learned that the creation of housing for the working population of Leelanau County will involve many people, organizations, businesses, and governmental bodies to creatively find solutions that work for their townships and communities – and that each of those partners must clearly understand their roles in the process. The HAC resolved to take the lead in raising awareness among local governments about roles and potential solutions.
Their work began with the creation of the Leelanau County Housing Ready Checklist, intended to start local conversations about how zoning ordinances, master plans, and other local policies and practices impact housing choices. With the checklist in place, a presentation was developed to share information on housing needs, local government roles and solutions, and the Housing Ready Checklist, which was then shared at an annual meeting for all townships and villages in the County. At the meeting, the HAC extended an invitation to all units of government to provide the presentation and discuss the checklist at local planning commission meetings.
Now, volunteers act as a “speakers bureau,” with HAC volunteers delivering the presentation upon request to townships, villages, and community organizations. To date, they’ve visited 7 of the County’s 14 units of government, with 3 more planned for early 2020. The discussions with local governments help the group to raise awareness, build relationships, and identify new opportunities that inform additional HAC activities – including a suite of recommendations on County roles and opportunities in housing solutions, soon to be presented to the County Board of Commissioners.
By engaging representatives from local governments, business, and other organizations from throughout the County, the HAC and its volunteers have ensured that housing is at the forefront of conversations about community needs and issues – spurring action and commitment from local nonprofits, the County Land Bank Authority, and others. And the Leelanau County HAC Housing Ready Checklist provided the inspiration and basis for the Housing North Housing Ready Checklist, available here for communities throughout the region to use when exploring solutions to local housing needs.