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Housing Solutions Network Blog


August 2, 2012

The new catchphrase is Millennials. This term isn’t referring to a time in history, no, it’s referring to the high-tech, can-do, always-on-the-move generation born after generation X, about 1980-2000.  Millennials are different than previous generations and these differences translate directly to Millennials’ housing choices. While other generations may have valued suburban living, Millennials are more likely to want to be in the middle of all the action—in cities and urban areas. And, many Millennials are willing to sacrifice a personal vehicle, square footage, and more to move to these places. Let’s take a look at some of the implications that will arise when Millennials move:

  • Millennials tend to drive less and therefore utilize more non-motorized and public transportation
    • This is also why Millennials are finding housing near transit an attractive housing option
  • Purchasing a home may not be a reality for many Millennials due to the current credit markets, the economy, college debt, and that they are the most unemployed generation
  • Unlike earlier generations, Millennials are choosing where they want to live first, then finding employment

So what does this mean for the future of our communities? Well, we can count on more Millennials flocking to urban centers, renters, bike riders, bus users, and hopefully a revitalization of America’s urban cores.

Sources (besides those imbedded in the text):
G.M. Filisko. How Millennials Move: The Car-Less Trends in On Common Ground.


Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC)

July 5, 2012

An acronym that may be new for some is NORC – Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. For a definition, Livable Communities: An Evaluation Guide states that “This type of community [NORC] develops as residents move in at a young age and remain in place over a long period-eventually resulting in a long-established community of older people. A NORC can refer to a block of apartments or a neighborhood of older single-family homes.” NORCs aren’t forced, as indicated in their name; they’re naturally occurring. In fact, New York’s NORC guidelines state that for NORC designation the buildings, complexes, or homes cannot originally have been intended for the aging. The addition of services that cater to the new aging demographic can make these places more enjoyable to live in.

The Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices states that the New York is thought to be the first government entity that recognized NORCs. Today, New York has two NORC programs: one for elderly living in complexes (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community Supportive Service Program) and one for those living in single-family homes or buildings up to six stories (Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Community). The two programs have set guidelines defining whether the area is a defined NORC. Once established, the NORCS may offer services such as health assessment and monitoring or home delivered meals.

While Michigan does not have a NORC program backed by the state, there are multiple resources available to Michigan seniors. Neighbors working together can help connect their community with the available resources. The Michigan Office of Services to the Aging has provided the following links:


2012 Grand Traverse County Housing Inventory Now Available

June 1, 2012  

The 2012 Grand Traverse County Housing Inventory with Appendices is now available online.

The Housing Inventory, which provides details on the value, condition, and other characteristics of the County’s housing stock, was prepared for Grand Traverse County by the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments. The inventory will be used to provide a foundation for community planning and strategy development.
Key findings of the document indicate that:

  • The majority of the County’s housing stock consists of single-family detached, owner-occupied housing – accounting for over 90% of the housing stock in some communities – with fewer housing choices that meet the needs of smaller households, individuals with disabilities, and low-income households. Few housing units – either rental or ownership units – in the County provide accessibility features; and the number of small rentals (one-bedroom or efficiency units) is considerably lower than the number of single-person rental households.
  • While housing values have dropped in many communities over the last several years, housing affordability remains an issue for low- or moderate-income households. Nearly half of all rental households pay over 30% of their income for housing; for households earning $20,000 or less, that percentage is nearly 80%.  And, while nearly 40% of owner-occupied households are considered low-income, only about a quarter of the County’s housing units are considered to be an “affordable” value for low-income households.
  • The typical household in Grand Traverse County spends 57% of their income on housing and transportation costs. In rural areas of the County, farther from employment opportunities, combined housing and transportation costs can account for well over 60% of a household’s budget.
  • The majority of homes in Grand Traverse County are in good condition, but about 800 homes are classified by tax data as being in “poor” condition, indicating that significant deterioration is present. Many of these are older mobile homes of lower construction quality; and nearly half are non-homestead, which could indicate that they are vacant or used as rentals.
  • The numbers of foreclosures and vacancies in Grand Traverse County have risen significantly. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of recorded foreclosures rose from 100 to 412, while the percentage of vacant housing units in the County increased by 41% between 2000 and 2010.

These issues have enormous consequences to the health, well-being, and economic stability of individual households and the County as a whole, with impacts on transportation needs, school enrollment, the economy, and overall quality of life.  As local, county, and regional organizations work to address these issues, the Housing Inventory will act as a foundation for strategies, policies, and actions. Data will be collected and maintained on an ongoing basis to provide evaluation benchmarks and to guide ongoing housing activities and policies.

Oversight in the development of the Housing Inventory was provided by the Grand Traverse County Housing Strategy Committee. Funding was provided through the Sustainable Communities Challenge Planning Grant Program. The Sustainable Communities grant program is made possible through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, an interagency partnership of the US Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Through this partnership, these three federal agencies came together to help places around the country develop in more environmentally and economically sustainable ways. To guide its work, the Partnership developed six livability principles:

  • Provide more transportation choices.
  • Promote equitable, affordable housing.
  • Enhance economic competitiveness.
  • Support existing communities.
  • Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment.
  • Value communities and neighborhoods.

The Community Challenge grant is also funding a new Master Plan process for the County. The Master Plan is a different approach compared to previous County plans. It will integrate local land use priorities into a county-wide policy by utilizing the leadership of local planning commissioners from local units of government, while building upon the principles of the Grand Vision.  The information contained herein will be used by the County in developing an affordable housing strategy through the master planning process. For more information on the Grand Traverse County Master Plan process, please visit


Planning for an Aging Community

May 30, 2012

The US Census reported that between 2000-2010, the number of households with individuals over age 60 in Grand Traverse County increased by 48%; and projections indicate that the County’s senior population will increase by another 38% by 2035. This trend – which is being experienced region-wide -  will have significant impacts on the region’s housing needs and market.  Given the population projections for the future of our region, housing for an aging population will become of greater importance.

To help communities address the housing needs of an aging population, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has released numerous resources on how to create livable communities for aging individuals. In Livable Communities: An Evaluation Guide, ways to cater transportation, walkability, safety and security, shopping, and housing to the needs of an aging population is discussed. The booklet also includes surveys on each topic so that individuals may assess their own community’s strengths and weaknesses. Issues addressed in the assessment include:

  • Home modifications and weatherization
    • It will be important to ensure that seniors may still enjoy being independent in their own home. Larger doorways, low entry thresholds, and grab bars are just a few modifications that will assist in creating an accessible home.
    • Especially relevant to northern Michigan is home weatherization. It is crucial that our aging population receive assistance in weather-proofing their homes and making necessary repairs. Volunteer groups and funding sources may be of help with this matter.
    • Be sure to take a look at Palisades Village in Washington, DC where community members pay a fee to belong to a neighborhood where members help each other out!
  • Creative home financing strategies
    • In order to keep up with necessary home repairs, financing options such as home equity loans, reverse mortgages, or property tax relief may be available.
  • Visitability
    • Visitability standards ensure that the main level of new construction homes are accessible to all. Multiple states have adopted these standards for new construction homes and subsidized developments.
    • Bolingbrook, Illinois requires all new single family and single family attached dwellings to adhere to its Visitability Code.
  • Housing type and affordability is also a concern for the elderly.

To learn more about planning for an aging community, be sure to click on the links embedded in the text!

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