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Many Michigan renters cannot afford their rent

House for rent
Monkey Business Images/Monkey Business - stock.adobe.co
House for rent

Michigan has 1.1 million renter households. According to the 2024 Michigan Statewide Housing Needs Assessment, more than half struggle to pay rent.

For those making $25,000 a year or less, there's a shortage of nearly 125,000 affordable housing units. This shortage forces low-income renters into more expensive properties, creating financial hardship.

David Allen - manager of the Office of Market Research for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority - co-authored the assessment, in partnership with researchers at the University of Michigan.

He said he believes there are a few reasons for the crisis.

"If you take a look at various markets around the state, there's been a lot more rent growth than there had been previous to this," said Allen. "Higher demand is certainly one of them. Another factor that you might want to take a look at, too, is the amount of new product that is being brought to the market, I think especially in the rental side of things."

Allen said there are multiple remedies to the housing problem, including making new construction of affordable housing units and other units in the state easier by maybe rethinking some of the zoning laws.

A renter in Ann Arbor, who shared anonymously, said she pays $1,300 per month for a small one-bedroom apartment.

Ann Arbor is one of Michigan's highest housing markets, where the average rent is just under $1,600 a month.

Despite working full-time for a Fortune 500 company, she said she's struggling to make ends meet.

"I've literally gone a couple of months without actually having my groceries fully stocked," she said, "because I'm putting all of my money towards rent."

Allen said he believes another solution to the housing crisis is to make sure that landlords understand government programs designed to help low-income tenants, such as Section 8.

"Make sure that landlords realize that if they do lease to a tenant with these Section 8 vouchers, it's a steady income for them," said Allen, "since the government always pays at least 30% of the rent."

Allen said that over the past few years, with the COVID crisis, the housing development authority has seen a great influx in money that could be used for a variety of facets to help offset Michigan's housing issues.

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