“Policy can’t be developed in a vacuum,” says Dawn Crandall, executive vice president of government relations for the Home Builders Association of Michigan. “People need to look at how one policy impacts that next thing. Everything is tied together.”
That’s Crandall’s message for the Environmental Protection Agency, as it considers a proposed air quality rule to restrict particles called PM2.5. While the regulations might not appear to impact the housing industry directly, they could prevent manufacturers from expanding facilities and creating jobs in Michigan—which does affect the housing market.
The concern: If manufacturers are unable to grow in the state or open new facilities, fewer people will need housing. That’s bad news for homebuilders.
- “If you put in these EPA regulations that are going to create a barrier for companies looking to move here, and then they decide they don’t want to, that’s going to impact Michigan’s ability to be an economic destination,” said Crandall.
- “And if you make it harder for businesses to employ employees, then they don’t need housing. That has a big impact on us.”
A shaky foundation: Michigan’s housing industry is still recovering from the significant downturn it experienced about 15 years ago.
- That slump was dramatic: according to Crandall, the number of permits filed in Michigan for single-family homes fell sharply from 54,721 in 2005 to around 15,000 two years later, bottoming out to about 6,900 in 2009.
- Although the industry has seen some recovery since then, new construction remains relatively low, and Crandall worries that shocks caused by the EPA’s proposed regulations could do further harm.
- “I think we’ve hit rock bottom, and we’re slowly coming out of it,” said Crandall. “But we’re only projecting 16,000 single-family permit builds this year—and anything that’s going to impact residential construction is not good for the state of Michigan.”
Another challenge: Ultimately, Crandall is concerned that the EPA’s proposed rule will simply add to a long list of challenges for homebuilders.
- “We’re already facing enough hurdles,” said Crandall. “There’s a lack of skilled workers who can do residential construction. Material costs peaked during COVID. We get a lot of our lumber from Canada, so these Canadian wildfires could have an impact. So if PM2.5 is going to affect economic development in our state, that’s going to have an impact on us, too.”
The big idea: “We’re all connected in some form or fashion,” said Crandall. “Michigan needs to grow our population, and we can’t do that if companies don’t bring people into our state who want to live, work and play here. We’re one big ecosystem.”