Growing Michigan Together Council addresses housing and other concerns across the state

This article is part of the Block by Block series, supported by FHLBank IndianapolisIFF, and the Community Economic Development Association (CEDAM). The Block by Block series follows small-scale minority-driven development and affordable housing issues in the state of Michigan.
Ruth Park Apartments, Traverse City
Launched by Governor Gretchen Whitmer in June 2023, the Growing Michigan Together Council works to develop a long-term plan of action to address many issues of concern across the state. The vision examines present and future challenges, setting a blueprint for success. Individual concerns include jobs, talent, and people; infrastructure and places; PreK-12 and higher education, and revenue. 

Currently, the state of Michigan is ranked 49 of 50 in terms of population growth. The Council’s goal is to become a top-ten state for population growth by 2050, as stated in the executive summary. 

In her daily job duties as Michigan’s first chief growth officer, Hilary Doe works to help grow Michigan’s population and boost the economy across the state. 

“Michigan is a great place to call home,” Doe says. “Michigan is about one of 34% of states that has been seeing population stagnation, and in recent years, decline. Our communities have really struggled as a result.”

First steps: Workgroups and resident feedback

Hilary DoeAround the same time Whitmer announced Doe as the chief growth officer, she also announced the launch of the Growing Michigan Together Council. In an effort to grow the population, the Council was to come up with a set of recommendations and key metrics to track.

Within the Council, specific workgroups include the Pre-K to 12 workgroup, higher education workgroup, jobs, talent and people workgroup, and infrastructure places workgroup. Gov. Whitmer announced the workgroups in August 2023. In October 2023, the workgroups presented their recommendations to the Council. In addition to formulating recommendations, the Council pursued public engagement and commissioned independent research to help with drafting the final report. Now, the Council is in the implementation phase. 

“Now, my team is working off of that blueprint for growth, chasing implementation on those recommendations in addition to standing on the back of a body of public engagement work we did across the state last year,” Doe says. “I want to underscore how important that public engagement work was. It was just as critical to hear from Michiganders from every corner of our state about what stood between them and imagining their future in Michigan — 42% of our 1,000 in-person surveys were from folks 18 to 34, and that was critical input.”

Among the 18 to 34 year-olds, 18% of those polled identified housing as the most important issue facing their community, which was a top response. Overall, 12% of Michiganders stated that they wanted more accessible and available housing as their top priority. 

Doe stresses the importance of making sure each workgroup includes a diversity of voices, providing different perspectives from all over the state. Within the infrastructure and places workgroup, member input came from small businesses, local governments, developers, infrastructure experts, universities, young professionals, mid-career professionals, and community organizations including the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM). 

Melvin Henley
The focus on housing

CEDAM policy manager Melvin Henley leads its policy team, which advocates on behalf of more than 300 members. CEDAM focuses on affordable housing, economic inclusion, and broader community economic development. Henley also serves on the Growing Michigan Together Council Infrastructures and Places Workgroup and helped submit recommendations. 

Those recommendations considered sustainable solutions for transportation systems and water infrastructure, placemaking as a means to support attraction and retention of talent, investment in fuel-efficient vehicles, and solutions for creating attainable housing at every income level. 

Henley and other workgroup members met seven times to discuss these needs. Henley says the topic of housing was an essential one. The group discussed how housing had a profound impact on the economic development cycle. When considering affordable and accessible housing options at every income level, Henley says the group was mindful of the state’s first-ever Statewide Housing Plan. 

“We had conversations about making sure that if new housing was to come online, that it was connected to some of the infrastructure and transit opportunities that also existed,” Henley says. 

The final report cites research showing many young people rely on public or nonmotorized transportation. The report suggests that local entities and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) connect transit needs with workers and housing, making sure transit options are tailored to meet the unique needs of the community, employers, and residents in that region. 

Doe says two main themes from the workgroup recommendations ended up in the final Council report, delivered in Dec. 2023. 

“First, the report identifies how critical housing is to our growth and names that we need to unlock housing in order to support growth,” she says. “Michigan has a housing crisis that is affecting folks at all incomes. We’re seeing housing challenges not just in Michigan, of course, but across the country. Michigan does have an opportunity to really address it, and addressing it is complex because it requires addressing both stock and affordability.”

Future site of a mixed-use building featuring affordable housing in Detroit.75,000 new housing units by 2026

Doe says Governor Whitmer had a goal to get 75,000 new and renewed housing units on the market by 2026, and doubled down on this goal during the 2024 State of the State. Not only is it necessary to have those units, but it’s crucial that residents can afford to live in those units. 

“This challenge is meeting folks at every income level,” Doe says. “We’ve worked with our partners at Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) who have launched proven, down payment assistance programs previously. In 2023, MSHDA issued down payment assistance in 73 counties. In 2024, they’ve set a goal to be in all 83 counties. They’ve identified that strategies like that can help directly address some of the recommendations in the report.”

The final report’s second recommendation focuses on addressing zoning in order to meet that housing goal. Doe says this issue is typically talked about less statewide, but came up many times in the individual workgroup discussions. 

“The Council and the workgroups both discussed the need for local units of government to address master plans to think about updating zoning to address the needs of younger folks and the kinds of housing that the 18-34 year-old young workers and families want to live in,” she says. 

Part of these early actions towards this goal include a recent launch of MSHDA’s Housing Readiness Incentive Grant program to help governments modernize their zoning and land-use policies. Doe hopes this will prompt more local governments to encourage investment and updating master plans. As for now, real progress towards growing Michigan’s tomorrow is being made today, according to Doe. 

“Our goal is to launch a progress tracker so folks can follow along across the state, and we can all look at our progress towards achieving the key metrics and blueprint for growth,” she says. “We’ll also be launching pilots and programs in communities across the state. We really want to make sure that folks can feel that growth and momentum locally.”

Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new, interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at

Masthead photo by Tommy Allen.
Photo of Traverse City site by John Russell. 
Photos of Detroit site by Doug Coombe.

Melvin Henley and Hilary Doe photos courtesy subjects.

Supported by FHLBank Indianapolis, IFF, and the Community Economic Development Association (CEDAM), the Block by Block series follows small-scale minority-driven development and affordable housing issues in the state of Michigan.
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