DOWAGIAC — The city of Dowagiac is spending $12,000 on a new study of the city’s housing market. The housing study comes on the heels of a new retail market study completed earlier this fall.
City Council members voted this week to hire the LandUseUSA firm to conduct the housing study. The Laingsburg, Mich. firm will conduct the study over the next two months and provide the city with a document officials can then take to bankers, builders and real estate developers.
“We’re pretty excited about this,” City Manager Kevin Anderson said Thursday. “We want to try to get a handle on the current housing market and where it’s going in the short-term and the long-term.”
Anderson said the genesis for having the study done came from anecdotal evidence that the local housing market is changing, as well as the success the city has seen from having the retail market study done.
“We hope this provides similar information and energy,” he said. “We’ve seen some movement in the housing market and heard anecdotal reports. We’re trying to understand if the reports we’ve heard translate into actual trends.”
He and other city officials have heard anecdotally that there are a growing number of people from the Chicago area relocating to Dowagiac on either a full-time or part-time basis. “This is more than those who come on weekends or vacations and a little bit different from the lake set,” he said.
In addition, they’ve been hearing about two other trends: older people and “empty-nesters” looking to downsize, as well as a number of young professionals buying homes and investing in “fixer-uppers.”
As for downtown housing, he said a lot of the downtown apartments are already filled but he said there are a number of empty lots in and around the downtown that are ready for redevelopment.
“Nationwide, we’ve seen a renaissance around downtown areas and those areas have become hot real estate markets,” he said. “People are moving back into cities.”
Anderson said that while there’s been an “inkling” of interest in new housing developments, there aren’t any developers “on the hook” and ready to start projects. While there isn’t a lot of open space available in the city, he said there are “pockets of space” such as on part of the old middle school property and lots on Main Street.
“We’re kind of excited to see where this takes us,” he said. “It will allow for targeted marketing of private investment based on proven data bases and analytics.”
He said the LandUseUSA has done similar market studies for Cass County and the Southwest Michigan region in the last few years. Right now, the firm is finishing up a study for the city of Flint that details who is moving in and out, the types of housing available and price points as to what people are looking to pay for new homes.