Guest Column

Demand for ‘Middle America’ housing needs to remain strong

January 4, 2019
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In early 2018, Sable Homes recognized the need to provide housing for the missing middle buyers or those wanting to downsize their homes throughout West Michigan. As part of that effort, we chose to broaden our territory to provide housing needs in specific communities and renew a sense of pride in these neighborhoods.

Throughout the past year, Sable Homes worked with The Newaygo County Area Promise Zone Authority, TrueNorth Community Services and River Country Chamber of Commerce to break ground on the revitalized River Hills neighborhood in Newaygo. We also worked with the village of Sparta to complete the final phases of the 50-year-old Country Meadows neighborhood near 12 Mile Road.

It’s been great to bring these much-needed housing initiatives to the Newaygo and Sparta communities. We are grateful for their support and assistance in helping these projects get off the ground. They are sure to be beneficial for years to come.

The National Association of Home Builders recently reported concerns over housing affordability nationwide. However, West Michigan is one of the most affordable places to own a home. There is a consumer demand for “Middle America” — first-time buyers, those who are tired of renting or looking to downsize — and everyone in between. It’s not just here in West Michigan but throughout the country. West Michigan needs to continue attracting skilled-trade workers in order for the workforce to remain on track for a strong 2019.

Two years ago, home builders across the nation were dealing with increased commodity prices, such as lumber, due to new tariffs on imported materials. Those costs have stabilized at the end of 2018, and Sable Homes is hopeful this trend continues throughout 2019.

Dan Grzywacz, manager and senior loan officer at Mortgage 1 in Grand Rapids, said he expects to see a “slow down” in interest rates for 2019 and predicts 2019 will be similar to 2018 with home values steadily increasing and more housing inventory in the market. Grzywacz explained there will be a “great need” for affordable housing in West Michigan.

Last August, metro Grand Rapids had an unemployment rate of 2.6 percent — lower than the state and national average, according to Jim Robey, director of regional economic planning services at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Robey spoke at The Right Place's regional economic and employment forecast meeting held in Grand Rapids earlier last month.

While Robey expects the region's low unemployment rate to linger in 2019, it poses challenges for companies, like Sable Homes, that depend on skilled workers. This has been cyclical year after year after year. But those in skilled trades are an important part of our industry and our local economy.

Sable Homes expects 2019 to be similar to 2018 with a strong demand for homes and a strong resale of existing homes. Because of government regulations, the cost of lots for building new homes will continue to increase, causing overall home prices to increase over the next year.

John Bitely is president of Rockford-based Sable Homes.

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