Ten city-owned properties in Ann Arbor could become affordable residential areas in the next 10 years, which would seriously detract from the city’s goal of 2,800 affordable housing units by 2035.
A property tax approved by 73% of voters in November – effective July 2021 and an estimated $ 6.5 million in the first year – would help fund the development of these properties.
Jennifer Hall, executive director of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, says it’s important to make the planning process as public as possible.
A proposal at one location, 415 West Washington St, includes contributions from community members who wish to protect the habitat of Chimney Swift, a small foraging bird that likes to nest in dark, narrow spaces.
Entrepreneurs near another potential residential area at 121 Catherine Street feared a new building would turn off a customer parking lot.
“One thing that we did based on this feedback is that we thought about how we could get as much parking space as possible and still create affordable housing,” said Hall.
In that case, Hall said, raising the building would provide most of the parking space that buyers and guests rely on.
The city held virtual feedback sessions with neighbors in other locations this fall, the results of which should be available in a report around February, according to Hall.
The ten locations are at different stages of the planning process, but for some, Hall said the housing commission could look for developers at some point next year.
Housing advocates say they are “excited” about the millage that is passing, and with such an overwhelming lead. But they also say government action could help communities like Ann Arbor do more to address housing insecurity.
For example, Amanda Carlisle, executive director of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance, says Michigan law does not require that new housing developments include affordable housing units.
“With a Republican legislature, this will be difficult to do, but as more communities become more unaffordable, we believe it is a possibility,” she said.
A state-level move came from Senator Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), who tabled a bill (SB 1129) in September that would allow local governments to set rental control guidelines but has not yet been taken up by the committee.
And then there is the issue of evictions, which with a moratorium on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that expires on January 31st could clog the courts in the new year.
“This millage is not going to help this crisis,” said Carlisle. “So I am concerned that the recovery (from the pandemic) will be unbalanced as always and will really affect more low-income households.”