The “Triple Bottom Line” in Michigan’s coastal communities - Element 3: Housing opportunities

Providing many different housing options in Great Lakes coastal and waterfront communities improves quality of life for coastal residents and provide numerous economic and environmental benefits in Great Lakes coastal communities.

Coastal community residents have varying levels of income, interests, and needs when it comes to the type of home that best suits their lifestyle. Young professionals, families, and empty-nesters, for example, may prefer different sizes of homes in different locations nearby the things that are important to them. As stated in the introductory article, there is no “one size fits all” approach to achieving the triple-bottom line. Determining the appropriate amount, type and location of housing in coastal and waterfront communities requires understanding the current needs of the residents, as well as the expected future needs of the residents based on the community’s vision of what they want their community to look like.

Providing housing opportunities to coastal community residents and visitors improves the quality of life of the residents, while promoting local businesses and protecting local natural areas. Housing with convenient access to places of employment, shops, public recreational areas, schools, and even hospitals helps people get to know their community better. This fosters a “sense of place” that ties the residents to the community and creates a desire to protect the natural and cultural heritage. Providing diverse housing options that meet the changing needs of residents throughout their life allows residents to maintain this connection to their community.

In coastal and waterfront communities that have a large economic base from tourism, accommodating housing needs can become more difficult due to seasonal workers, visitors, and second-home residents.  Hotels and cottages may be more likely used for seasonal visitors, and single-family homes retrofitted with a small living unit above a garage or in an attic could be rented out to seasonal workers. Live-aboard boats at a marina or public harbor that allows long-term moorage is another potential housing option for seasonal visitors and workers. This type of housing may even be preferable due to the location on the water and potential proximity to seasonal waterfront jobs.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant are actively involved in projects that seek to protect the environment, improve the quality of life, and promote economic activity in Michigan’s coastal areas. This article was adapted from Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities, a report created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the International City/County Management Association, and Rhode Island Sea Grant.  The document can be accessed at:

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