Sault residents struggle with housing availability and high prices
Sault Ste. Marie – Inflation hits everything, everywhere.
From rising egg prices in grocery stores to rising utility costs, people have been working to find ways to offset the extra expenses. Housing prices are no exception.
Housing is an important issue for every community, but housing struggles are getting worse for some in Sault Ste. Marie.
Suddenly, with rising food prices and tight budgets, more people than ever need help dealing with rising rental costs. Organizations like Yooper Do Gooders, which helps support people in need across northern Michigan, have recently seen an increase in the number of people needing financial assistance.
“Rent prices have gone up dramatically, food prices have gone up dramatically, gas prices have gone up dramatically,” said Dean O’Brien, organizer of Yooper Do Gooders. “Michigan’s housing problem is unreal.”
Rental prices have risen in a number of locations over the past year, including affordable housing units. This is partly due to inflation, which has caused the prices of many things to rise, including food and utilities.
“Housing insecurity is getting worse,” said Sheila Berger, housing director for the Community Action Agency. “Landlords have taken apartments that normally cost around $650 to rent and raised prices to over $1,000 in some cases. Market rates are no longer fair.”
In Sault Ste. Marie Specifically, residents also have to deal with a lack of availability, which in turn also causes prices to rise because landlords know demand is higher.
As private rental organizations like Airbnb continue to grow, the availability of housing is dwindling. Through these rental groups, individuals can buy homes and rent them out to tourists and visitors.
“This happens everywhere, and it happens to all types of families. There are single people, married people, people with children. I’ve seen families forced to live in tents in the woods — even in the winter, even in the Sioux,” O’Brien said. “In the three years since I have been doing this charity work in Soo, I have noticed every year that the situation is getting worse.”
Their lack of availability can harm the city in many ways, not only in contributing to leaving residents homeless, but also by preventing people from moving into the city.
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“If you haven’t been in the housing market, it’s really hard to know how tough the housing market is right now,” said Candy Seward Farmstead, executive director of the Housing Commission. “What we’re hearing is that availability right now is limited.”
The Soo Locks are the most popular part of the city, and have one of the largest economic impacts of any organization, supporting industries across the country. The New Lock project will help locksmiths be more efficient and prepared, but it is a large project that will require the help of thousands of people over more than 10 years.
The New Look project has already created hundreds of jobs, and will create hundreds more in the next few years – some permanent, some temporary. Because of the project, hundreds of people have recently moved to Sault Ste. Mary to work on the locks.
more: The site of the historic Garfield School will soon become affordable housing
more: Temporary housing to host hundreds of Soo Locks workers
The project had a significant impact on housing, as some long-term workers began renting apartments and short-term workers stayed in hotels. This means that the number of hotel rooms available was less during the tourist season.
To help overcome housing constraints, Soo Locks collaborated with Southeast Disaster Relief Services and the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation on a project to build a temporary housing unit to house hundreds of workers over the next few years. Many workers have moved into housing units and more rooms will become available, but many workers are still using other housing methods.
Several projects are currently underway to create better, more affordable housing in the area to combat this lack of availability, including the apartment project at Garfield Landing. There are also emergency housing resources like the Sault Tribe’s new homeless shelter, Lodge of Hope.
— Contact Brendan Wiesner: BWiesner@Sooeveningnews.com