Whitmer announces new Michigan housing, energy programs: What it means

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MACKINAC ISLAND — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hopes a pair of programs will lower housing and energy costs in Michigan, the latest rollout of the kind of pocketbook plans she has tried to make a centerpiece of her administration.

Central to Whitmer's goal of bringing the dream of homeownership within reach for more households in the state is an increase in the supply of housing. "Build, baby, build," Whitmer said in her State of the State address at the start of the year.

Now, Whitmer wants to increase Michigan's five-year statewide target for building more housing by 50%. In 2022, Whitmer set a goal of building or rehabilitating 75,000 housing units across the state by September 2026. With nearly 50,000 units already built, rehabbed or permitted — according to the governor's office — Whitmer wants to see 115,000 reach that status by the deadline.

"We have met our goal on building out affordable housing early," Whitmer told the Free Press. "And so we want to really stay aggressive in that space." The initiative will be supported by funding from the state's housing authority and federal funding, she said.

"It's ambitious. It's accessible. And it's absolutely necessary," Whitmer said during a news briefing Wednesday on the porch of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island where the Detroit Regional Chamber holds its annual policy conference this week.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces housing and energy initiatives during the Mackinac Policy Conference May 29, 2024.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces housing and energy initiatives during the Mackinac Policy Conference May 29, 2024.

Michigan has also brought in federal funding to lower 28,000 households' energy bills, helping 18,000 low-income households install solar and make other energy upgrades and 10,000 secure energy-efficient appliances, according to Whitmer's office. The various rebate programs will be available this fall and the solar program is expected to roll out in a year.

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Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II told the Free Press the energy programs will not only help reduce costs for families but also create jobs in weatherization and solar panel installation. "So we think it's really a win-win," he said.

Michigan received $210.8 million for home energy rebates programs: about $105 million each for lowering the upfront costs of making energy upgrades to a home and financing appliances. Home efficiency upgrades will be eligible for up to $8,000 in rebates while energy-efficient appliances such as stoves, ovens and dryers will be eligible for up to $14,000 in rebates, said Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Director Phil Roos during the Mackinac Island briefing.

He called the federal support for the programs along with another $156 million for solar installation good for the environment and Michiganders' pocketbooks, saying they would lower energy bills on average by 20%. Whitmer signed legislation last year setting a goal of achieving 100% clean energy by 2040.

Contact Clara Hendrickson at chendrickson@freepress.com or 313-296-5743. Follow her on X, previously called Twitter, @clarajanehen.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Whitmer announces new Michigan housing, energy programs