making the region more attractive to mortgage lenders than the economically troubled Northeast or the erratic West. Michigan in particular has made a comeback, economists say, and phenomenal housing price appreciation has marked Battle Creek, Muskegon, and Detroit. All three cities were ranked among the top 20 metropolitan areas in home-value increases for the first six months of 1996, according to a recent study by TRW Redi Property Data, Anaheim, Calif. But life within the state capital, Lansing, has remained relatively unchanged for 10 years. The city's economy is fueled by civil service jobs: In 1995, almost 30% of Lansing's jobs were in government, versus a national average of 17%. State and federal budget cuts in the first half of this decade have meant fewer of these jobs, contributing to a 0.5% employment decline in the sector last year. Home prices in the city remain low; they averaged $79,800 in 1995, according to the National Association of Realtors, versus a national average of $112,000. Employment growth in the city of Lansing is still sluggish, as is personal income. Lansing's per capita personal income in 1994 was $20,745, compared with a national average of $21,696. And in the past two years, affordable-housing programs have been cut back, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. New housing units have added only 3.5% to Lansing's housing stock since 1980, HUD reported, in part because of diminishing land resources, an exodus to the suburbs, and cutbacks in funding for state and federal programs. Mortgage loan volume in the city fell almost 4% from 1994 to 1995. But lenders said that they believe 1996 may be the year the Lansing housing market starts to mirror that of other metropolitan areas in the state - driven mainly by growth in the suburbs. Business in Lansing has been "real good in the past year," said Don Raklovits, vice president and Michigan production manager at Old Kent Mortgage. In fact, he said, the company's six branches in the Lansing area have seen better volume pickup in the past year than its branches anywhere else in the state. The suburban "collar areas" of the state capital have enjoyed particularly rapid home price increases, he added. In addition, downtown Lansing has become an after-work destination, Mr. Raklovits said, thanks to the city's new ballpark, which hosts a minor league baseball team, the Lugnuts. The city went through a period of stagnation, but the number of new businesses and restaurants springing up around the ballpark is amazing, Mr. Raklovits said. Home prices rose 6% in 1995, and there is hope that they will have increased even more by the end of 1996. Local employment conditions will, of course, be a big factor. A General Motors strike this summer effectively thwarted any gains the manufacturing segment had seen this year, said Ingo Winzer, an economist at Local Market Monitor, Wellesley, Mass.
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