ROGERS CITY - City of Rogers City Council members want more information before going ahead with a Michigan State Housing Development Authority targeted marketing analysis for the city.
James Espinosa, MSHDA community development specialist, spoke to council members Tuesday, giving them an idea of what the study would look at and how it would be used afterward. The conversation is part of a statewide focus on community-specific development plans, and Onaway is having its own study done with the help of a nonprofit started by Tom Moran, owner of Moran Iron Works.
"Moran is doing great things and has a heavy presence here in Rogers City as well as in Cheboygan County," he said. "Moran approached us because he has a need for his current employees, as well as future employees he expects to hire."
Now, Espinosa wants Rogers City to get its own study for about $10,000, half of which the city would supply. In fact, he wants a six-county area in Northeast Michigan to have targeted housing market analyses done, and thinks two Presque Isle County cities signing on could get the ball rolling.
These studies look at demographic information on a county-wide basis, then home in on what housing is available in a specific community and what incoming residents are looking for, Espinosa said. The type of housing can matter, with certain buyers or renters looking for certain kinds of housing. Those who leave an area also are factored in as well, both who they are and why they're leaving.
When the study's done, MSHDA can use it to bring in state and federal dollars for new housing development, or to rehabilitate existing, vacant houses, Espinosa said. The agency focuses more on rehabing existing homes rather than demolishing them, and currently brings in $75,000 per year for scattered-site housing renovations.
The focus is shifting to community-specific renovation programs, Espinosa said. MSHDA tried to get a rental rehab program going in Rogers City a few years ago, but not many landlords took advantage of it.
Council member Gary Nowak was skeptical of whether the city should be spending the money, and asked whether the private sector should pursue other studies. He cited an example when Wolverine Power Cooperative was considering building a coal-fired power plant in town, and also wanted to build duplexes to house workers.
Nowak also said he wanted to know more about what MSHDA would do with the study and who would handle the initiatives.
"What do we do with the study once we're done with it," Nowak said. "We have five or six studies sitting in the closet we haven't done much of anything with."
Espinosa said private developers could pursue similar studies, but none are at the moment. MSHDA would match any local government or nonprofit's contribution toward a study, but can't do the same for private sector businesses.
Council members Dana LaBar and Thomas Sobeck thought the study is worth considering, with LaBar noting the study could bring more residents into the area.
Espinosa will follow up with city council to answer their questions, he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Deb Greene said the study sounded like a good way to know what people want, and to get more funding for new housing in the city.
"But it would be really nice to know how it will be implemented and what will be implemented ... before we spend the money, it would be really nice to know what it would be going for," she said.
In other business:
* council members held a brief public hearing on closing out the city's wastewater treatment plant project. No public comment was received.
* city council approved Rogers City Kiwanis Club's request to use the city fire hall for its Halloween Party, and set trick-or-treat hours as 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Oct. 31.