Study to deliver hard facts on Cadillac’s housing needs

CADILLAC – It’s a question that has plagued the community for years. Does the Cadillac area need more housing? If so, what kind?

Thanks to the cooperation and support of several Cadillac organizations, a study to answer those questions is planned.

The Cadillac Area Chamber of Commerce, the Cadillac Industrial Fund, Mercy Housing Michigan and the City Housing Commission have partnered to initiate and underwrite a comprehensive evaluation of the community’s affordable housing needs.

The independent study will provide a solid body of data to support community growth strategies. Regan O’Neill, board chair of the Cadillac Industrial Fund, said housing is a key component in the formula for developing and sustaining a prosperous community. O’Neill pointed out that with the availability of adequate housing, companies can attract quality employees to establish new businesses or to expand existing businesses.

But without the ability to house a growing workforce, it’s a double whammy: Businesses can’t expand and the community risks losing valuable employers who may be forced to relocate to support employment needs.

While the Cadillac area has not yet reached a crisis point in regards to housing its workforce, local industries must look ahead for their long-range planning, O’Neill said. To consider expansion, companies must be able to rely on the community to maintain a strong workforce well into the future.

With the local jobless rate at a low point, O’Neill said future industrial expansion is expected to draw on employees from other communities, making housing an essential factor in the area’s ability to thrive.

The results of the study will provide some hard evidence for decision making and put an end to speculation, said Dan Peterson, executive director of Cadillac Housing Commission, which oversees Kirtland Terrace/Leeson Court Apartments.

The completion of a comprehensive, five-county survey conducted last year in the Traverse City region prompted Peterson and other Cadillac leaders to pursue a study in the Wexford-Missaukee labor market.

Peterson, along with Chamber President Joy Gaasch and City Manager Pete Stalker, met with Traverse City officials last fall to discuss the Traverse City assessment.

Peterson said the Cadillac survey will be loosely modeled after the $13,000 Traverse City study, which produced a detailed analysis primarily from existing data. The analysis will indicate specifically what types of housing families in Cadillac need and can afford, both now and in the future.

Funded by the partner organizations, a consultant is expected to be hired this month to begin the study.

The study’s timing couldn’t be better for Mercy Housing Michigan, a regional development corporation and affiliate of Mercy Housing of Denver, Colo.

Mercy Housing Michigan was co-founded earlier this year by the Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters and the Sisters of Mercy-Detroit. (Sisters of Mercy also sponsor Mercy Health Services North.) Mercy Housing Michigan, a partner in the survey endeavor, has identified Cadillac as a community in need of afford housing. The housing assessment will help the organization better target its potential project.

“Completion of the market study will reveal the true need for affordable housing in Cadillac,” said project developer Sister Mary Beth Sutton. “That information will be used to determine the type and number of units to be developed.”

Peterson believes Mercy Housing Michigan exemplifies the immediate need for hard data. He said community cooperation on housing issues helps ensure that study results will produce benefits to both the private and public sectors.

Once the data is in hand, the guessing over Cadillac’s housing needs will end and the task of effectively addressing the problems can begin.

Reprinted from the Cadillac Chamber of Commerce’s Cadillac Area Business Magazine.