Welcome to SEMCOG's Think Regional/Act Local blog! SEMCOG is the only organization in Southeast Michigan that brings together all governments to solve regional challenges and enhance the quality of life for the seven-county regions 4.7 million residents. With this regional perspective in mind, we work with member local governments to sustain our regions reputation as a great place to work, play, and do business.


Our panel of SEMCOG staff bloggers will post daily to this blog, discussing SEMCOG's data, federal and state legislative issues, and environmental and fiscal sustainability best practices for local governments all with the goal of creating a successful future for the region.



Think Regional/Act Local

Down the stretch they come…

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link

June 18, 2012 — You know, I think it is really hard to strike a deal with someone after you have called them militant, radical, and extremist. Yet that is exactly what a democratic senator called conservative house republican members of the conference committee trying to develop a 15-month transportation bill. There are now less than two weeks remaining in the current short-term extension of SAFETEA-LU. The legislation either has to be extended or a new bill developed and passed prior to June 30, or the bill and funding lapses – in an election year, no less!


This is beginning to sound like a new chapter of the blame game. Each side blaming the other for stalled negotiation, negotiating in bad faith, and just not willing to go as far as the other side. Republicans want to ease environmental and regulatory review and want to restrict the use of the transportation enhancement program. Republicans also have tied the Keystone pipeline to the reauthorization proposal.


Democrats have threatened to just pass their Senate bill and count on the fact that it received strong bipartisan support in the senate. Many think if it gets introduced to the House, it will pass.




And so it goes. Fourteen days and we are still name-calling with a long-term solution out of sight. Sometimes, I hate it when I am right and this looks like one of those times. Look for a six-month extension to the end of the calendar year and then another one until early 2013. This Congress can’t get it done – let’s hope the next Congress can!


Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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When will the housing market recover? (And what may recovery look like?)

(Census, Data) Permanent link

A couple new reports shed light on where the U.S. housing market is headed and what a recovery may look like.  Last week, I had a chance to sit in on a webinar sponsored by S&P Indices where the panel believed a housing recovery could still be a few years off. That being said, recent indicators suggest the stage is being set for a recovery to take hold.  Housing affordability is near record highs and the job market is growing (although slowly). Excess housing supply is falling and so too are the number of foreclosures.


With a healthier national market, what does this mean for Southeast Michigan? I think what I said in our 2011 Community Fiscal Capacities still holds true. We are certainly affordable; however our job market needs to improve. Our state’s foreclosure inventory is dropping and recent home price indices show the region’s prices close to a bottom. Prices will rebound (slowly) once there is sustained job growth and there is further decline in negative equity rates and foreclosures in the market.


So what may a recovery look like?  That leads me to the second report. The Demand Institute just published “The Shifting Nature of U.S. Housing Demand” and they have some intriguing findings. They believe the recovery will be led by demand from buyers for rental properties. More than 50 percent of people planning to move in the next two years intend to rent – young people and immigrants especially.


The Demand Institute also believes the recovery will not be uniform across the country. Factors like foreclosure inventory and unemployment rates will have a major impact on how local and state markets perform. Additionally, they believe local amenities – like accessibility to public transit - will influence prices.


Brian Parthum
Brian analyzes Southeast Michigan's economy. As part of SEMCOG's Data Analysis Group, Brian helps local governments understand what the latest employment and economic trends mean to them.

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