Current Real Estate Issues

Aspire North’s Priority Issues for 2021:

Housing Availability & Affordability

Reasonable Regulation of Short-Term Rentals

Infrastructure Support & Development — Including High-speed Internet/Internet Connectivity

Updates on Current Issues

Leelanau County | Elmwood Charter Township Proposed Short-Term Rental Ordinance

As of 3/1/2021 | The Elmwood Charter Township Board of Trustees passed a motion at a Special Meeting held Monday, March 1st that would allow short-term rentals (operating prior to March 20th, 2019) to become a non-conforming use and be eligible to apply for a Short-Term Rental License to operate. This motion will edit the current proposed Short-Term Rental (STR) Ordinance (Zoning Ordinance 2017-04-08) by allowing currently operating short-term rentals in Residential District 1 (or R-1) to be eligible to continue operating with a Short-Term Rental License. A public hearing has been scheduled for April 19th to consider the proposed Short-Term Rental Ordinance and a Police Power Ordinance to regulate short-term rentals of Residential Property. Review notes from the January 20th and January 27th Special Meetings HERE and the official minutes for the January 20th and 27th Special Meetings HERE. Notice and information for the April 19th public hearing will be made available on the Elmwood Township website when available.

Benzie County, Inland Township

As of 2/8/2021 | The Inland Township Board held a special meeting on Monday, February 8th in which Flood Ordinance 21-1 was approved to manage floodplain development in compliance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). You can read the full adopted ordinance on Page 10 through 14 of the Inland Township Special Board Meeting Minutes.

Grand Traverse County | Traverse City Commission Special Meeting Discussion of draft request for proposal for Lots X, T, and O

As of 3/22/2021 | The Traverse City Commission had a discussion on a potential Traverse City Housing Initiative Request for Proposal process to develop city-owned properties Lots X, T, and O. This discussion was led by Rob Bacigalupi with Mission North, LLC who has been working on the development of this RFP process. Based on the discussion, Rob Bacigalupi will be putting together a draft RFP for the Traverse City Commission’s review at their April 5th Regular Meeting. Information on their April 5th Regular Meeting can be found HERE and view the conversation during the Traverse City Commission March 22nd Special Meeting HERE. The discussion was held from (39:30 to 1:48:00)

Grand Traverse County | Traverse City Planning Commission Discussion of a Riparian Buffer Zone Ordinance and Two Principal Dwellings in the R-1a and R-1b Districts

As of 2/2/2021 | The Traverse City Planning Commission discussed a proposed Riparian Buffer Zone Ordinance it was decided that this ordinance for the time being would be taken back to the Planning Commission Ad Hoc Riparian Buffer Zone Committee which will be meeting on February 9th at 12 pm. There was also discussion on the topic of the allowance of two principal dwellings in R-1a and R-1b Districts with lot sizes of 5,000 square feet as well as potentially decreasing the minimum lot sizes to 4,000 square feet for a resident to be built. The Traverse City Staff will be organizing public sessions to engage the public on this issue in the near future. You can read additional notes from the meeting HERE.

Leelanau County | Review of Bingham Township Planning Commission Zoning Ordinance Amendments

As of 3-23-2021 | The Bingham Township Planning Commission submitted to the Leelanau County Planning Commission for review two real estate related amendments:

  1. Mobile Homes will be recognized in Bingham Township as valid single-family dwellings, provided:
    • The home is used as a single-family dwelling.
    • Is attached to a permanent foundation
    • It has health department approval for well and septic systems.
  2. Amendments that will refer to the Bingham Township Short-Term Rental Ordinance passed by the Bingham Township Board on October 19th, 2020. You can view this Short-Term Rental Ordinance on the Regional STR Guide available to Aspire North members on the Members Only Portal

With the approval of the Leelanau County Planning Commission, they will move to Bingham Township Board for final approval. You can view the Bingham Township Zoning Ordinance amendments HERE on pages 17 to 21 as well as the Bingham Township Planning Commission Minutes on these amendments on pages 22 to 35. 

Leelanau County | Cleveland Township Text Amendment to Dwelling definition and Building Lot Width and Area

As of 1/26/2021 | At the January 26th Leelanau County Planning Commission Meeting they reviewed Cleveland Township’s proposed amendments to the Cleveland Township Zoning Ordinance which would expand the definition of a dwelling ordinance Section 3.19 to include the text “ The building or part thereof shall provide complete independent living facilities for one or more persons, including, permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, well/water, and sanitation.” and in Section 5.09 add “The yard area free of all buildings and structures shall constitute at least seventy-five (75) percent of the lot.”

Leelanau County | Septic Records Consideration

As of 2/16/2021 | At the February 16th Leelanau County Commission Regular Session an update was given by County Administrator Chet Janik. He stated that the Leelanau County Equalization Department and the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department will be putting together an overlay map for the age of drinking water wells around Little Traverse Lake, which will likely be presented to the Leelanau County Commission in March. View the February 16th meeting HERE. This follows the creation of an overlay map of septic systems put together and presented by the Leelanau County Equalization Department for the February 9th Leelanau County Commissioners Executive Board Session (the septic system overlay map can be viewed here on page 36). View the February 9th meeting here.

As of 1/19/2021At the Leelanau County Commission Regular Session, a motion was passed to establish a date for a special session with Leelanau Clean Water and the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department to develop a detailed plan for a pilot consisting of septic installations around Little Traverse Lake (in Cleveland Township) including objectives, scope, timeline, budget and a post-pilot Leelanau Board of Commissioners study session to consider next steps. This pilot study would potentially be conducted through Rob Herman (GIS Analyst) with the Leelanau County Equalization Department to provide to the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department to determine the potential need for a County-wide Septic Ordinance. View the meeting here.

Wexford County | Fair Housing Resolution and Designation of Fair Housing Person to Contact

As of 1/6/2021 | The Wexford County Board of Commissioners issued a Fair Housing Resolution and Fair Housing Policy Statement to establish Wexford County’s commitment to fair housing and establish the Wexford County Administrator as the person to contact regarding housing discrimination in Wexford County. View the meeting agenda and minutes (Resolution can be viewed on Page 26 and 27 and the Policy Statement on Page 28).

Legislative Update

Transfer of Ownership: SB 16 (Sen. Zorn) – The bill would amend Article 7 (Enforcement) of the Housing Law of Michigan to specify that a transfer of ownership would not constitute a change of ownership if both of the following applied:

  • The transferring party and receiving party were the same or otherwise were both under common control.
  • The property was inspected in accordance with the Law during the two-year period immediately preceding the date of the transfer, or a longer period if previously determined by a local municipality inspection ordinance.
Legislative Priorities

Protection of Short-Term Rentals | Michigan Realtors® continues the conversation with legislative leadership in both chambers, as well as Governor Whitmer’s office, to ensure we bring a bill(s) to the table that is likely to find success. Michigan Realtors® is working to properly amend the Michigan Zoning Act to clarify the periodic rental of one’s property for 28 days or less is a residential use in nature. They feel they are very close to finding an area of agreeability. 

Status - Communication with stakeholders as well as potential sponsors is ongoing with a bill introduction for legislature’s consideration slated for mid-April.

First-Time Home Buyers Savings Account: HB 4289 & 4290 by Rep. Damoose (R-Harbor Springs) & Rep. Manoogian (D-Birmingham), and SB 158 & 159 by Sen. Horn (R-Frankenmuth) & Sen. Runstead (R-White Lake) | The bills create a tax incentivized savings vehicle towards a first-time home purchase in the State of Michigan. The account can be opened in the name of an individual or a beneficiary with an annual tax deduction and tax-free growth, as long as it is used for the purposes of the account. There is a $50,000 investment cap over the 20-year life of the account. The goal is that this incentivized savings account will bolster an increase in home purchases and investments within the State of Michigan.

Status - The bills passed out of their House and Senate committees this week with overwhelming support and will be moving to the House and Senate Floors. The House adopted a substitute for HB 4289 to clarify the State Treasury Department’s administrative role within the program. This substitute also removes any tax penalty for Active Duty Military personnel, when transferred out-of-state due to no control of their own and forced to withdraw funds from their account for reasons other than a first-time home purchase.

Veteran and Active-Duty Licensure Reciprocity: HB 4376 & 4377 (Rep. Schroeder & Rep. Anthony) SB 157 & 158 (Sen. Bizon & Sen. Hollier) | The bills would create a pathway to reciprocity for Active Duty, Veteran, Reserves, or Uniformed Services within the United States Military. The scope of reciprocity would extend to a surviving spouse or surviving child under 26 years of age.

Status - House Bills 4376 & 4377 passed out of the House of Representatives receiving a unanimous vote. Senate Bills 157 & 158 will receive a vote upon return to session after Spring Break.

Abandoned Mobile Home Titling: HB 4304 by Rep. Hertel (D-St Clair Shores) | The bill outlines a new process by which a mobile home park owner may take possession of an abandoned mobile home within their community. More importantly, the bill includes language to reestablish the surety bond process for getting a new title to a mobile home located outside of a park.

Status - Received a hearing in the House Committee on Regulatory Reform. The Committee should be voting on the bill the week of April 12th. 

Audio and Video Recording of Private Residence for Security Purposes | Would amend Chapter 82, MCL 750.539c of the Michigan Penal Code to coincide with MCL 750.539a that deals with the installation of surveillance in a “private place.” Michigan Realtors® is working to implement this amendment to allow audio surveillance in conjunction with that same video surveillance code for your private residence. 

Housing Supply and Affordability | Unfortunately, there is no one “silver bullet” solution to this issue. Policies affecting the cost and availability of housing include – local permitting, zoning, taxes and fees, down payment assistance, and the range of housing options. Michigan Realtors® is working with stakeholder groups throughout the State of Michigan to assess market-based solutions that will in turn address the housing need of Michigan’s workforce and job providers. 

Updates courtesy of Michigan Realtors® Northern Michigan Public Policy Director, Alex Houseman. For more information visit

Michigan REALTORS® Legislative News

The president signed into law the “American Rescue Plan,” which is a stimulus package/covid relief bill of around $1.9 trillion. It includes:

  • Direct payments of $1,400 per person up to $75k
    • The credit for single filers is $1,400 and $2,800 for joint filers. An extra $1,400 will be paid for each dependent.
    • Phases out between $75,000 and $80,000 of adjusted gross income (AGI) and between $112,500 and $120,000 of AGI for heads of household and between $150,000 and $160,000 for joint filers. The credit is reduced to zero at AGIs of $80,000, $120,000, and $160,000 respectively.
  • Extend unemployment benefits (set to expire March/April)
  • Funding for low-income households for rent, utilities, etc. ($19.1 billion) 
  • Mortgage relief ($10 billion)
  • Funding to combat homelessness ($5 billion)
  • Money to state and local governments ($350 billion)
  • Money for small businesses 
  • EIDL funding ($15 billion)
  • New grant program for bars/restaurants ($25 billion)
  • Funding for PPP and nonprofits ($7 billion)

For a more detailed summary of the American Rescue Plan provisions that impact the real estate industry CLICK HERE

U.S. House Passes PPP Extension Act | On Thursday, March 25, the Senate passed HR 1799, the PPP (Payment Protection Program) Extension Act of 2021, by a vote of 92-7; the bill passed the House on March 16. This bipartisan bill extends the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) deadline to apply for an additional two months, through May 31, and gives SBA lenders an additional 30 days to process those applications. NAR was a strong advocate of this legislation. Without it, the PPP would close to new applicants on March 31, despite still having funding for new loans. PPP has been a lifeline for many small businesses, independent contractors, and sole proprietors – including many REALTORS® - since the beginning of the pandemic. It was extended with $284.5 billion in funding by the FY 2021 Appropriations Act (passed in December) and received an additional $7.25 billion from the American Rescue Plan. For general information on PPP and to apply visit the NAR Coronavirus: Small Business Relief FAQs webpage.

Treasury Provides Rent Relief Guidelines | On Tuesday, February 23, the Treasury Department released updated FAQs for states and municipalities (“grantees”) reflecting the Biden Administration’s guidelines for structuring Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) programs, clearing the way for states to being administering rental assistance to renters and housing providers. The ERA fund was created by the December 2020 COVID-19 relief package, which appropriated $25 billion for rental relief. The funds were distributed by the Treasury Department to states and municipalities that applied for them; each state received at least $200 million, with more available based on population. The states are now charged with creating programs to disburse the relief funds to renters and housing providers to assist renters who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 pay their rent and relieve the financial burden on housing providers caused by the CDC eviction moratorium. CLICK HERE for more information on Treasury rent relief guidelines.

NAR Stresses Support for Independent Contractor Classification | The ability to work as an independent contractor is recognized and protected under many state and some federal laws and state laws). However, litigation and new federal and state legislation continue to threaten workers’ ability to be classified as independent contractors, including many real estate professionals. More specifically, NAR has communicated the concerns with the adoption of the “ABC test” used for classifying workers. Should new federal standards adopt this test, there may be states that mirror that action and also encourage more litigation challenges that may impact real estate professionals’ independent contractor status. View the full release HERE.

Biden Administrative Actions Question Future of Association Health Plan (AHPs) for Independent Contractors | On January 28, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) aimed at making high-quality health care accessible and affordable for every American. The EO added a special enrollment period for federally-facilitated marketplaces and directed federal agencies to take action. The EO also revoked a 2017 Trump Administration EO that directed the Department of Labor (DOL) to issue the Association Health Plan (AHPs) regulation that expanded access to these plans for the first time to independent contractors. While this revocation did not directly rescind the AHP regulation, the President’s EO also instructed the DOL to review all existing regulations and consider whether to “suspend, revise, or rescind” any of these regulations that may be inconsistent with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which likely includes the AHP rule. NAR is closely following the DOL’s actions on this and how the AHP regulation may evolve, including maintained engagement with the broad industry AHP coalition NAR help to found. Updates on this can be found at nar.realtor/health-care-reform.

Biden Administration Actions on Fair Housing | President Biden recently issued several actions related to ending discrimination and promoting fair housing and equal opportunity for all Americans. Included in these was the January 20th, 2021 Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation and the January 26th Memorandum on Redressing Our Nation's and the Federal Government's History of Discriminatory Housing Practices and Policies. View a full breakdown here.

Updates courtesy of National Association of Realtors® Political Representative, Patrick Wohl. For more information, visit 

NAR’s Federal Advocacy Agenda

Summary of NAR State & Local Issues Policies