Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 3, 2011

Where to live when you're young, broke?

Affordable housing a problem in TC

By Ashley Flees
Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — College students by nature look to the future. Their purpose for acquiring an education is to prepare themselves for the trials that future endeavors will present whether they are local or elsewhere.

But what if you've studied at Northwestern Michigan College and wish to stay within the vicinity of Traverse City? Where do you look to acquire affordable housing that is suitable for your needs?

Traverse City is often regarded as a place to retire or perhaps start a family in a two-income household. What Traverse City is not known for is vast amounts of affordable housing. A typical apartment in the downtown region ranges from $700 a month to in excess of $900 a month and many times that does not include all or even some of the utilities. How is the average graduate, associate's degree in hand and thousands of dollars in student loans looming overhead, supposed to afford $900 plus utilities a month? Many cannot, especially when they are just starting out on the career ladder. This is a very prominent issue that many students will undoubtedly face.

So what options does a recent graduate who wishes to stay in Traverse City area have? If you are lucky you might have parents who will let you live with them until you find suitable employment that will enable you to afford $900+ a month in living costs. Or you find a few friends and split the costs. But what about the person who just wants to be by themselves or cannot stand the idea of living with their parents any longer?

Fortunately, with a little digging, help is available. There are a variety of programs available to those who have low incomes. For example, the Section Eight program is designed to provide rental assistance for low-income people. Another program available to those who qualify is the Home Stretch for Home Ownership program, designed for those who are looking to own a home in the Grand Traverse area. This particular program is facilitated by Grand Traverse County and offers housing at a lower price than the market value to those who qualify.

For the single adult who wishes to stay in the Traverse City area there is a particularly intriguing option, the New Whiting Hotel. It is centrally located in downtown Traverse City and is specifically geared to meet the needs of a single adult who is looking for a slight commute and nearby employment. Luckily, the New Whiting is very affordable when compared to similar options within close vicinity. Instead of paying $700 or even $900+ a month, a person living at the New Whiting pays $350-$475. That includes all utilities and bonuses like cable TV, Internet and pre-furnished living spaces. For the newly graduated college student this is ideal. Not only does the Whiting offer a prime location in the heart of downtown, it also provides people the chance to save a load of cash on living expenses. This helps not only the individual but also the local economy. By not handing all of your hard-earned dollars to the landlord, you are able to spend money elsewhere, perhaps at the local Cherry Republic or any one of the many other stores that grace the region. The extra cash can also help recent graduates begin building a nest egg for things like the down payment on a home. Having the ability to put money aside and save is paramount in creating a stable future for yourself, and having affordable housing when you are starting out is the first step.

The housing situation may be slightly intimidating to the newly graduated college student, but there is hope. There are options available when it comes to choosing where to live within the Traverse City area; you have to figure out which is best suited for you.

Ashley Flees is a second-year student at Northwestern Michigan College, majoring in liberal studies. She's a staff writer at the White Pine Press, where this piece was originally published.