Building, Planning & Zoning

The City Manager is the Zoning Administrator for the City. The Code Enforcement Officer works directly with and reports to the City Manager covering planning, zoning, and code violations. 

Property Development

A comprehensive Guide to Development is available below, but the #1 thing that needs to happen at the start of any development in the City is to reach out to us at the City early on. The City of Houghton takes a proactive approach to development and between our City Manager, Code Enforcement Officer, and Business Development Director we can help. Whether it is an addition to a residential home or the search for a site to locate a new business; we will help.

Guide to Development

Zoning and Right-of-Way Permits

A zoning permit is required for all new construction and changes in use, new driveways, retaining walls, or hard surface walkways on property within the city limits. The zoning permit needs to be completed and forwarded to the Code Enforcement Officer:

Jeff Jepsen
Code Enforcement Officer
City of Houghton
P.O. Box 606
Houghton, MI 49931
Office: 906-483-4642
Fax: 906-482-0282

There is no fee associated with a Zoning Permit. 


A Right-of-Way permit is required for any work proposed within the public rights-of-way such as pipes or utility lines.

Please note that work within the highway rights-of-way for US-41 and M-26 may require a permit from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Building Permits

Building permits and demolition permits are issued through the Houghton County Building Department. A copy of the approved Zoning Permit will be required to obtain a building permit. All building permit fees will be paid to Houghton County and based on their fee structure.

Houghton County Building Department
401 E. Houghton Avenue
Houghton, MI 49931
Office: 906-482-2260
Fax: 906-482-7238

Prior to receiving a demolition permit, please read Resolution 2024-1929 encouraging  deconstruction as an alternative to demolition.  Resolution 2024-1929

Site Plan Review

Site plan review by the Planning Commission is required for certain projects as defined below. The Planning Commission meets on the fourth Tuesday of every month. Special meetings can be held if necessary. There is no fee for a site plan review. A zoning permit and building permit may still be necessary.

  • An apartment building containing three (3) or more dwelling units.
  • More than one multiple-family building on a lot, parcel or tract of land, or combination of lots under single ownership.
  • Mobile Home Park.
  • Subdivision consisting of four or more dwellings.
  • Any commercial, office, industrial, business, recreational or institutional structures/uses including any change in exterior material, landscaping, parking and new additions to buildings.
  • Any earthwork greater than 40,000 square feet.

To be considered for site plan review on the Planning Commission’s agenda, applicants must submit plans ahead of time. The Zoning Administrator and Code Enforcement Officer are available to work with prospective applicants from the start of any project, and throughout the design, to help assure that a site plan is ready for Planning Commission review. 

All information regarding site plan review is contained in the zoning ordinance. If you have further questions, please contact the Code Enforcement Officer, Jeff Jepsen at 906-482-1700.

Water and Sewer Connection Fees:

New construction requiring new City water/sewer service requires a water/sewer connection fee which is paid with the zoning application. The City of Houghton Department of Public Works typically installs the service taps to the property line for connection by the property owner.

  • Residential Construction $2,500.00. Each additional meter 100.00
  • Commercial Construction $2,600.00. Each additional meter 100.00

Sign Permit

A Sign Permit Application must be issued prior to the installation of any sign per the City’s Zoning Ordinance. A building permit and/or electrical permit may be required through the Houghton County Building Department.

The application must be completed and submitted to:

City of Houghton
P.O. Box 606
Houghton, MI 49931

The Zoning Administrator is responsible for the approval of all sign permits.

Special Land Use Permit

The attached application is required for a Special Land Use Permit as described in Chapter 98-630. After the application and all pertinent information is received, the public hearing can be scheduled.

Special Land Use Permit (PDF Format)


The City’s zoning ordinance is updated every five years following the update of the master plan.  The planning commission is presently working on the update and expects it will be complete in 2021.  The complete zoning ordinance is available below.  Paper copies of the zoning ordinance are also available at the clerk’s office by calling 482-1700.  We charge .10 per copy so the charge for a copy of the zoning ordinance is approximately $10.

Click here for the complete zoning ordinance.

The zoning map is attached:

Zoning Map 1-3-24

City Plans

City of Houghton Master Plan 2019-2023 is complete and attached below.

Non-Motorized Transportation

HyettPalma Study: Houghton Downtown Blueprint 2005

“Houghton Downtown Blueprint 2005”, completed under the program titled “Blueprints for Michigan Downtowns”.

This document includes the community’s vision for Downtown as well as the findings of a comprehensive analysis of Downtown’s commercial markets. The vision and market analysis findings were used to define a specific economic enhancement strategy for the Downtown project area. The recommended strategy was specifically designed to enable Downtown to attain the community’s defined vision as well as ‘the identified market opportunities.

Houghton Downtown Blueprint 2005 (PDF)

Downtown Development Authority Plan

In 1983 the City of Houghton’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) was organized under the following DDA Plan. Since that date, the DDA plan has been amended to add new projects to take place within the DDA boundaries. At the present time, the City of Houghton DDA will expire in 2040.

View the plans in our Searchable Document Center.

Tax Increment Finance Authority

In 1986, the City of Houghton’s Tax Increment Finance Authority (TIFA) was organized covering the area more commonly known as the M-26/Sharon Avenue Business District.  Since that date, the TIFA plan has been amended to add new projects to take place within the DDA boundaries.  At the present time, the City of Houghton TIFA will expire in 2040.

View the plans in our Searchable Document Center.

1998 Downtown Waterfront Development Plan

1982 Waterfront Development Plan

1972 Hancock-Houghton Region Future Land Use Development Plan

City Ordinances

View the City Ordinances in our Searchable Document Center.

Rental Housing Licenses & Inspections

It is the intent of the City to provide for the inspection of all residential rental properties available for rent in the City.  The inspection will confirm compliance with City Ordinance as well as basic safety features.  Rental properties are contributing properties to neighborhoods and as such be in harmony with other properties in the neighborhood.  All  rental properties are required to be registered with the city, submit to an annual inspection, and pay an annual rental license fee. Maximum occupancy is dependent upon which zoning district the property is located in.

Owner-occupied rental properties have different standards. These standards are outlined in Chapter 14 of the City Ordinance.

All inspections of rental properties are conducted by:

Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Jepsen
616 Shelden Avenue
Houghton, MI 49931
Phone: 906-483-4642

The requirements for rental licensing and other information are:

The State of Michigan provides a publication regarding landlord/tenant law. It can be found here.

MTU’s off Campus Housing:

aerial view of the city of Houghton and lift bridge