Michigan is having a hard time keeping and attracting residents, according to a recent report from the Growing Michigan Together Council.
The state’s population has been relatively steady since 1980. With residents aging and fewer people having children, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer formed the bipartisan council to advise on specific policies to grow Michigan’s population, including identifying a population goal for 2050.
Shirley Stancato was on the council and is a member of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.
She says Michigan’s lagging population growth starts with young people finding better opportunities — and places to live — elsewhere.
“They don’t want driver’s licenses,” Stancato said. “They don’t want to drive. They want to go to a place where there’s public transportation.”
Metro Detroit lacks a cohesive regional transit plan and the council’s report cites a need for one.
Any comprehensive changes to infrastructure will require more money, but the council didn’t look at raising taxes. However, higher taxes aren’t something young adults are looking at when deciding where to live.
“They’re moving to Denver, and to Chicago and Boston. Those aren’t warm places,” Stancato said. “Where young people are going, the taxes, they aren’t lower, we are 39th, Michigan is 39th (in tax rate).”
Stancato says there are things colleges can do to keep graduates from leaving the state.
“One of the things that (Wayne State) President Espy has already begun… is College to Career,” Stancato said. “That’s a program to show young people, while they’re in college, to do more internships, have more relationships with businesses so they don’t have to leave the state.”
Michigan is also facing a housing crisis. There just aren’t enough affordable places for people to live.
In her state of the state address this week, Gov. Whitmer says she wants to spend $1.4 billion to improve the state’s housing stock — another key tenet of the report.
“On the west side and in the U.P. there just aren’t enough homes for growing families, and I know Detroiters see higher rates when they re-sign, in other words: The rent is too damn high and we don’t have enough damn housing,” Whitmer said.
The goal is to add 10,000 new units.
“So our response is simple,” Whitmer said. “Build baby build.”
Use the media player above to hear the full interview with Growing Michigan Together Council member Shirley Stancato.