With home listings ‘unbelievably low,’ Marshall wants to spur housing development


Marshall HousingMatt Davis has been selling homes in Marshall for more than two decades. He’s never seen a market quite like the one today.

At a Marshall coffee shop, Davis, who is the owner and principal broker a Real Estate One Rosemary Davis in downtown Marshall and the newly elected president of Michigan Realtors, pulls out his phone to check the inventory of homes for sale in Marshall.

“47,” he says.

“This is way lower than I have ever seen in it in 20 years,” Davis said. “My mom, who’s been in it 50 years, doesn’t ever remember it being this low either.”

For years, it was common for the city to have about 145 houses on the market at any given time, he said.

Data from the Battle Creek Area Association of Realtors shows there were a total of 164 new listings in all of 2017, down from 183 in 2016 and 190 in 2015 in the Marshall area.

“For the last three to four years it started to decline,” Davis said. “The last two have been really low. The last year has been unbelievably low.”

The city of Marshall wants to do something about that.

Neighborhood Improvement Authority

City officials plan to create the Marshall’s first Neighborhood Improvement Authority on the northeast side of town that would include property north of Michigan Avenue, east of East Drive and south of I-94.

The authority will allow tax increment financing money to be used for residential projects.

“It captures taxes for any new development that would occur after the authority was established and then those funds can pay for public improvements, sidewalks, water mains, [or] streets,” Marshall City Manager Tom Tarkiewicz said.

The authority would capture city taxes, Calhoun County taxes, Kellogg Community College taxes and Ambulance Authority taxes, but each would have the choice of whether they want their taxes captured or not.

“It does not pay for any construction of homes or residential units,” Tarkiewicz said.

A public hearing on the authority will take place at 7 p.m. today. Council will not consider full approval of the authority until December.

The area under consideration is already residential, and it has multiple sites that could be used for residential development.

The property at 410 East Drive, where a former State Farm building is currently being demolished by the Calhoun County Land Bank Authority, is a part of the authority site, for instance.

“There is a need for additional housing in Marshall,” Land Bank Executive Director Krista Trout-Edwards said. “This site is located in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Residential makes sense here.”

The land bank worked with Progressive AE, a Michigan design and engineering firm, to create three residential concepts for the site that included a mix of housing types, including single-family, duplexes and townhouses.

“We held community conversations around what that redevelopment might look like, and then we also presented this residential concept to neighbors,” Trout-Edwards said. “And then we invited developers to attend a meeting about the site.”

The land bank intends to send out a request for proposal on the property later this year through its Transform this Commercial Property program. Ultimately, city and land bank officials say the design will be up to the developer selected.

In 2017, Oaklawn Hospital purchased from the land bank a former State Farm storage building south of the building currently under demolition. The hospital uses the building for storage and to house its print shop, but it doesn’t have an immediate use for the 900-space parking lot that came with it.

Oaklawn wants to sell the parking lot portion of the property in the future so it can be redeveloped for residential use that would compliment the development of the land bank’s property, Executive Director of Legal and Community Affairs Rich Lindsey. 

A National Trend

Marshall isn’t alone in the housing shortage. It’s a national problem.

“A lack of housing impacts our entire community,” CEO of the Battle Creek Area Association of Realtors Amanda Lankerd said. “We want to grow and housing is a huge part of growth.”

A variety of factors caused the shortage: fewer builders, fewer laborers, fewer people wanting to sell, higher regulatory costs, an increase in the cost for materials and a trend toward smaller households.

“It’s almost like a perfect storm we are experiencing right now,” Lankerd said.

But the trend could be easing. A report issued Sept. 27 by Trulia, a real estate website, found that while inventory is still down 2.5% from last year, the number of homes for sale declined in the third quarter at its slowest annual pace since 2015.

Also, the number of homes available for sale nationwide is currently higher than at any other point this year, Trulia found.

Finding the ‘Goldilocks’ house

Matt and Sara Rodgers have spent the last year and a half casually searching for a new home in Marshall to house their growing family. With five children, the Rodgers need more space.

“We would like to get something a little more spacious with bigger bedrooms,” Matt said. “We are having a hard time finding one that fits those requirements and is also in the budget. We just haven’t been able to find that Goldilocks type of house.”

In the entire city, just one home building permit was taken out in 2018, though building permits have been taken out to renovate commercial buildings to include upstairs apartments and a whole new complex with six apartments was issued a building permit in 2017.

“I think sometimes people are afraid of change and of new development in this community,” Davis said. “It’s gone beyond us having the choice of whether we need it or not. We need it in order to be able to thrive as a community.”

The lack of housing is a problem that hit Tarkiewicz’s office.

“Our industry has been telling us that there is not housing for their workers, and they need more housing in the community,” Tarkiewicz said.

And more workers are coming.

Construction on a new natural gas energy plant is slated to start next year and four medical marijuana companies, one that will have 400 workers in a five-year period, have their site plans approved by the city.

More workers means more people looking for houses.

“I would imagine it would just get harder,” Matt Rodgers said.

Contact Kalea Hall at (269) 966-0697 or khall@battlecreekenquirer.com. Follow her on Twitter at @bykaleahall.

Article Source: Kalea Hall, Battle Creek Enquirer