'Placemaking' pushed to propel home sales

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Capital News Service
LANSING – Appealing plazas, thriving shops and convenient transportation may play a crucial role to increase home sales, according to the Michigan Association of Realtors.
The association cites Gov. Rick Snyder’s “placemaking” policy as a way to improve the housing market.
Mike Nowlin, senior public relations and policy manager at Pace & Partners Inc., said, Snyder embraced placemaking as part of Michigan’s agenda to attract and retain talent, entrepreneurs and businesses.
Nowlin said powerful collaborative efforts are underway to achieve the state’s placemaking objectives.
Association President Beth Foley said. “Stakeholders across Michigan are realizing that placemaking strategies can help rebuild our economy and encourage more people to live in our state.”
She said that even before the housing crisis ends, there are strong connections among local government officials, policymakers, financial institutions, residents, architects and Realtors to find solutions that go beyond the financial aspects of the housing slump.
“We have made the decision that our role as Realtors is much greater than simply helping folks buy and sell houses,” Foley said.
She said the qualities of placemaking such as green spaces or cultural amenities are driving demand in today’s marketplace.
Some other strategies haven’t succeeded, according to Ethan Kent, vice president of the Project for Public Spaces, a New York City-based authority on revitalizing spaces and placemaking strategies.
“Building convention centers and using tax incentives to attract big corporations or new business isn’t working,” Kent said.
He said placemaking emphasizes smaller, inexpensive improvements that make people feel at home, such as public squares for festivals or facilities for start-up retailers with lower overhead costs.
Kimberly Pontius, chief executive officer at the Traverse Area Association of Realtors, said, “Diverse housing choices and mixed-use development, alternative transportation, cultural activities and green spaces create high-quality community, which help to better home sales.”
According to the state association, home sales in the Traverse City area increased 20.21 percent in January 2012 compared with 2011.
Statewide, home sales rose 8.3 percent during the same period.
However, the rate varied greatly around Michigan. There was a 300 percent increase in the Huron County area but a 57.35 percent decline in the Shiawassee County region.
Nowlin said Michigan has been one of the hardest-hit states for foreclosures. And the high percentage of foreclosed homes on the market has been blamed for real estate prices crashing to levels not seen since the 1990s.
More people are buying repossessed homes, he said, and that “signals the state’s real estate market may finally have hit bottom and is ready to stabilize.”
© 2012, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.

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