First-ever rural-focused Real Estate Development Boot Camp aimed at emerging housing developers

Since the housing crash of 2008, housing development has stagnated in Michigan and across the country, leaving a critical shortage of affordable housing for new workers as businesses now look to expand.

To address the problem in rural communities, the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan is launching its first rural-focused Real Estate Development Boot Camp, a multi-part training program designed to give participants the tools they need to develop affordable work-force housing in their communities. 

This intensive training will focus on encouraging emerging developers in Michigan’s small towns and rural communities.

What’s happening: Although anyone interested in understanding more about the development process is welcome to register for the boot camp, this session — which begins with a virtual kick-off May 8 – is geared toward helping participants move their potential real estate development projects forward, says Sandy Pearson, real estate program manager for CEDAM.

“We encourage all participants to bring a potential project — whether it be a potential site or building, or even just an idea— to the training,” she says.

The training continues in person at Crystal Mountain Resort June 4-7 and wraps up with virtual final presentations June 20.

Who should attend: The target audience for this boot camp is residents who are interested in revitalizing their community through small- to medium-scale development projects, as well as nonprofit housing development staff interested in creating a range of housing and community development projects utilizing the Low income Housing Tax Credit Program or other resources.

Community Economic Development AssociationAlso welcome are city officials, equity investors and community partners. Participants who do not have a potential project will have the opportunity to collaborate with those who do during the creation of a final project presentation.

Because the boot camp is a fast-paced, hands-on training program and capacity is limited, registrants must commit to being active participants and be available to attend all boot camp dates, Pearson says.

What prompted this kind of training: Although this is the first development boot camp aimed at rural communities, Pearson says, the training sessions have been used for more than 20 years. The programs focus on how to develop successfully, how to engage the community and develop properties thoughtfully and intentionally. 

“This bootcamp is more relevant than ever right now because we have such a shortage of developers in Michigan,” Pearson says. “There's a need for housing, but there are communities that don't have developers, or they don't have the type of developer to develop the housing types they need.”

Why is there a housing shortage: In 2008, with the housing and mortgage crisis, “we lost a lot of construction workers from Michigan, a very high percentage, so housing development dramatically slowed down,” Pearson says. “It never really picked back up.” Additional factors contributing to the shortage include a population that is living longer and increasingly independent, people staying in their own homes longer instead of selling their family home; the popularity of rental vacation homes, especially in Michigan’s tourist towns; incomes rising at a far lesser rate than the cost of housing for both rental and home ownership, and a shortage of construction workers and developers for the types of housing needed.

“There is enough demand for construction of the $300,000-and-above price range to keep the developers busy,” Pearson says, which has created a shortage of construction workers for homes in the $150,000-$250,000 range. “Sometimes it's referred to as the ‘missing middle,’” affordable workforce housing, she says.

Another contributor can be zoning restrictions, which may allow for single-family housing but not for duplexes, triplexes or fourplexes for either home ownership or rental. Those types of housing can ease the crunch. And in some communities, it may appear on paper that there is adequate housing to meet the population, but those houses may be old, or in expensive states of disrepair so it's not quality housing.

“That's the gap, where we need more developers to respond to those needs in their communities,” she says, “and one way to do that is grow the pool of developers. 
That’s what this bootcamp does, it's for emerging developers, to bring more developers into the system.”

What’s next: “We bring the resources to (participants) and they bring a potential project,” Pearson says, “whether a piece of property, a concept or a vision for development. “We form teams and talk about how to engage the community, how to respond to their community's needs, what housing types are needed in their community, and then how to make that development happen."

What supports does that emerging developer need? Whether it's financial, consultancy, technical assistance — what is it that they need to bring their development to fruition? 
“Our end goal,” Pearson says, “is that we will continue to keep in touch with these emerging developers and celebrate their developments as they are developed. And then we hope that they, in turn, participate in future bootcamps by sharing and contributing their knowledge as developers once they're a full-fledged developer.”

Information: To view a draft agenda, click here. To register, click here. Deadline for application is 11:55 p.m. April 26 or until the workshop fills.

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years. She is a regular contributor to Rural Innovation Exchange and other Issue Media Group publications. 
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