A cooperative effort led by the Sleeping Bear Gateways Council (SBGC) is bringing federal assistance to address a critical shortage of seasonal worker housing in Leelanau and Benzie counties.
The United States Department of Agriculture on June 28th announced that SBGC has been awarded a $90,000 Rural Business Development Grant. The project will support SBGC’s efforts to develop housing solutions for seasonal employees needed to serve local residents and visitors.
Local contributions from the Grand Traverse Community Foundation, Rotary Charities and SBGC bring the total project funds to $121,000, over a two-year period.
Rising real estate prices, competition from short- and long-term vacation rentals, and a general housing shortage combine to make it difficult – and sometimes impossible – for potential summer employees to rent in communities near the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Some businesses have gone so far as to purchase buildings for rental to employees. Others have been forced to cut hours or limit services because they are unable to hire enough employees.
The grant will allow SBGC to contract with a project manager to focus on types of housing to meet the needs of employers and communities, and on the transportation and financing plans required. Long-term solutions could potentially include a mix of new construction targeted to seasonal workers, expansion of “work camping” space, repurposing of some motel rooms, and other actions.
The manager will also work to expand SBGC’s seasonal employee housing exchange, which works with employers and “landlords” to match employees with currently available rental space. SBGC will be considering qualified candidates for the position on September 1, 2021.
SBGC, formed in 2018 as a successor to the Citizens Council of the Sleeping Bear Dunes Area, initiates projects to evaluate environmental and economic impacts of the significant growth of visitors to the area. Key to this growth has been the increase in visitors to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which attracted record attendance exceeding 1.7 million visitors to the area in 2020, an increase of more than 27 percent over the past 10 years.
SBGC’s Mission is to facilitate stakeholder collaboration to enhance sustainable gateway communities and our Vision is that the unique character of our gateway communities and regional natural resources remain undiminished for the benefit of its citizens, visitors, economy, and environment.
Contact: Mike Rivard 617-838-1272 Bill Witler 314-941-6389