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Walk up style housing coming to Michigan in a big way

Walkable urban places are not just a phenomenon of coastal U.S. metropolitan areas. This report demonstrates that the market desires them in Michigan—and they are gaining traction. If this emerging trend in favor of walkable urbanism plays out in Michigan as it has in the (elsewhere) it will mean an historic shift away from the drivable development patterns that have dominated development for the latter half of the 20th century. The state could return to the walkable urban development pattern that predominated before World War II.”

– The WalkUP Wake-Up Call: Michigan Metros


Last Monday LOCUS and Smart Growth America dropped a bomb on the Michigan real estate market. A good bomb, in my opinion, but a bomb nonetheless.

After decades of disinvestment in walkable urbanism in the Mitten State the new report from LOCUS shows palpable signs that walk up housing is coming back with a vengeance. Economic developers, residential builders and local officials throughout the state should heed the calls of the report.

Key findings of the report include:

  • After decades of disinvestment in the late 20th century, walkable urban places are making a comeback in Michigan, led by Grand Rapids and Detroit-Ann Arbor.
  • There is significant pent-up demand for walkable urbanism in Michigan.
  • The comeback of WalkUPs is evident in market trends. Rent and price premiums for WalkUP real estate have emerged over the last several years.
  • The rent and price premiums for walkable urbanism in the Michigan Metros are not as high as the current premiums in Washington, D.C., or Boston but the current premiums in these two metros may be the future for Michigan’s Metros.
  • Most of Michigan’s walkable urban places are still in a state of transition. Continued support and management by local leaders, patient investment capital, and federal, state, and local partnership is still needed.
  • Walkable urban places tend to offer both lower combined housing and transportation costs, as well as better access to jobs than drivable locations.
  • The development and expansion of walkable urban places will generate an economic return for the Michigan Metros and the State of Michigan.

From millennials to aging baby boomers, people from all walks of life are willing to pay a premium for this type of housing. The land use outcomes of such housing are positive and the cost of infrastructure pales in relation to drivable, less dense housing.

Older Michigan cities should see this report as proof positive that there is a bright future for them despite the economic struggles of recent decades and state policy that short changes them. It is now time that we fully grasp this economic momentum and create an environment where new walk up housing and mixed use development will combine with the countless other assets of the state to create an economic future that will have Michigan compete with the very best places on Earth.

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