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Officials exploring projects to tackle housing shortage

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Contractors put the finishing touches on a new home recently built for a resident in Alpena. There are few new housing projects underway, but there might be some light at the end of the housing shortage crisis, as a pair of new housing development projects were recently announced. A developer will construct 14 condominium units near Grand Lake, while the other project is just in the discussion phase, but could lead to construction of several homes.

ALPENA — Finding a place to live in Northeast Michigan isn’t easy, as few homes or apartments are available to purchase or rent.

Still, local economic development leaders continue to work with developers to invest in housing, and it is possible a pair of new projects are on the horizon.

At the annual Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce dinner on Wednesday, Economic Development Director Mike Mahler shared a few details on the projects.

One of the projects could begin in a few months, while the other is still in its exploratory stage and isn’t expected to be executed any time soon.

Mahler said a lack of housing impacts communities in several ways. He said investors are leery of opening businesses, because there may not be places for workers to live, and young professionals who want to work in the area, often need to find other options because of the housing shortage.

One potential developer, who specializes in construction and has ties to Alpena, returned to the area to raise his family, and struggled to find appropriate housing. The hunt for a house was so frustrating that he contacted Mahler and expressed interest in acquiring a large piece of land to build 2000-to-2,500 square-foot homes on two or three acre sites.

“We are working with them on identifying sites that are close to town with adequate room for such a development,” Mahler said. “I think we would all agree this is needed in our community as we continue to attract new folks to the area. This is just in the discussion and exploratory phase right now.”

A group of investors has acquired property on East Grand Lake Road and County Road 638 with the intent to build 14 condo units. This is a short distance from the Portage Store and former Portage restaurant, Mahler said.

He said the investors indicated they could start construction this summer.

“That project is one that I am confident will happen,” he said.

Mahler said housing and childcare often go hand-in-hand with one another when young families consider moving to Alpena, or opening a business.

Some parents in the Alpena area have struggled to find childcare services, but Mahler said help is on the way for them.

Mahler said the Knights of Columbus Hall on Hamilton Road was sold and repurposed into a daycare and early learning center.

It’s opening is imminent, Mahler said.

“This is something badly needed and essential if we are going to attract families to the region,” Mahler said. “This project is well underway and planned for opening soon. They are seeking a license to handle 100 children.”

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