MML and MEDC Release Plan to Encourage More Multi-Family Homes, Making Construction Easier

MML and MEDC Release Plan to Encourage More Multi-Family Homes, Making Construction Easier

(MML, Sept. 22, 2022)

Michigan – With rent and mortgage costs rising and communities across the state challenged to develop enough housing for their residents, the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Economic Development Corporation have reached back into the past to develop new strategies to help communities add more housing options to their existing neighborhoods.

The plan is dubbed “Pattern Book Homes for 21st Century Michigan,” and it uses a two-part approach to help speed up housing development across the state. First, the plan offers free construction plans for multi-family homes using designs modeled after popular kit homes built during the state’s housing boom in the early part of the 20th century. Home builders can choose from two-family homes and fourplexes that use architectural themes designed to fit into existing Michigan neighborhoods. The second part of the Pattern Book provides a toolkit to help communities modernize their zoning codes to allow for more multi-family construction like the homes envisioned in the Pattern Book.

“The free plans offered in the Pattern Book Homes are similar to the home styles built in classic neighborhoods across the state like the Old West Side in Ann Arbor, the Heritage Hill Neighborhood in Grand Rapids, the Mechanic Street Neighborhood in Bay City or the Westside Neighborhood in Lansing,” said Melissa Milton-Pung, program manager with the Michigan Municipal League. “These home plans fit seamlessly into the existing fabric of our communities. And when builders use these plans in coordination with local officials, they can save on costs and reduce approval timelines, which will allow communities to increase the housing they so desperately need even faster.”

Michigan’s Statewide Housing Plan estimates that 75,000 new homes need to be built every year just to keep up with demand. Yet, the Home Builders Association of Michigan (HBAM) estimates only 17,000 new home construction permits will be issued by the end of this year.

Between January 2013 and October 2021, the average sales price for a home in Michigan increased by 84%. During that same period, the asking rent for a Michigan apartment increased by 20%, with the highest increases registered in mid-market properties most likely to contain affordable units.

“We have an ongoing labor shortage dating back to the last housing market collapse that is combining with rising material costs and pent up demand to drive up home construction costs,” said Home Builders Association of Michigan Executive Vice President Dawn Crandall. “The Pattern Book offers creative solutions that can help speed the construction timelines while utilizing existing infrastructure, so we look forward to working with our members and local municipal leaders to embrace multi-family home construction like what has been laid out in the Pattern Book.”

By using the home plans in the Pattern Book, buliders will save costs and time in having to design new units themselves. The Pattern Book also encourages local planning officials to pre-approve the designs for specific neighborhoods that meet the appropriate zoning and lot dimension standards to further speed up the development process.

“Many Michigan communities have an aging housing stock and older neighborhoods in need of infill development,” said Michigan Association of Planning Executive Director Andrea Brown. “The Pattern Book is ideally suited to helping communities become what we call ‘redevelopment ready’ by offering plug-and-play solutions for new home construction in neighborhoods that need it. This could really be a game changer.”

Key features in the Pattern Book Homes Project include classic architectural styles popular of the kit homes of the 1920s and 1930s. The home plans call for separate HVAC systems, individual washer and dryers, and sound buffering systems between units. Based on current construction costs, The Michigan Municipal League estimates that Pattern Book homes can be constructed at $500,000 per duplex and $900,000 per fourplex.

“The home plans were thoughtfully designed to ensure they utilize key components that allow them to be visually and functionally compatible with the common housing types found throughout Michigan,” said Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Martha MacFarlane-Faes. “This is new construction that will fit right into existing neighborhoods.”

In addition to cost savings, the Pattern Book Homes plan is also designed to help communities add density without taking up more land.

“Michigan’s classic strategy over the past decades has been to expand outwards with new greenfield construction on an auto-oriented landscape – whether we’re growing or not. By offering up multi-family home plans, we can add new housing and gently add more people to existing neighborhoods without taking up more space,” said Brown with the Michigan Association of Planning.

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MML and MEDC Release Plan to Encourage More Multi-Family Homes, Making Construction Easier