Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Affordable housing in Ann Arbor

If you're looking for a good longer read, Concentrate Media has a good article exploring the lack of affordability in downtown Ann Arbor:
Because Washtenaw County has an unusually high median income of $58,200, our "low income" threshold is closer to 75 percent, meaning a single person making $43,700 or less fits the bill, and should have a monthly housing cost – including utilities and taxes – of no more than $1,093.

Where market values are higher, citizens can apply for Section Eight vouchers, which pay landlords the difference between these income limits and market rate. But before the average 20-something schoolteacher gets excited about qualifying for this benefit, Hall warns that it's not quite that simple.

"There is a huge wait-list," she says. "We had 15,000 applicants for Section Eight in the last round."

So while a teacher making $35,000 may technically qualify as low income, that hardly matters if she is standing in a line in which 60 percent of 15,512 applicants reported incomes of $9,999 or less. And those are the households that Hall and the Housing Commission are truly working to serve. Most of their work is with those in the "extremely low income" category of 30 percent of median income: $17,500 for a single person locally, or $20,000 for a couple.

What are your thoughts gentle readers? Downtown is certainly an expensive area. How can we increase socioeconomic diversity in and around downtown? What would the benefits of this be?


  1. Options geared towards younger working professionals would be a good start. To avoid living in student housing again, young people who are working downtown are living outside of A2. I know of people renting in Saline and Ypsi because it's cheaper, but they would all love to live here and be able to take the bus and walk to work.

  2. It's not just younger working professionals. I'm 43, have been working here for years, and I can barely afford to rent. "Options NOT geared to students with wealthy parents" would be a nice start.

  3. I don't think society should have an obligation to pay for brand new housing for "young professionals" downtown. Being young and starting out means you get paid less, you own less, and you have to work to establish yourself. You may not own a car. Eventually you work your way up and can afford nicer things.

    New construction will never host cheaper housing than what is already found in existing buildings a few blocks or so away from downtown.

    The 2007 Washtenaw County Housing Affordability Needs Assessment recommended that no new affordable units be built in the college tracts near campus because they just get sucked up by students. Students have safety nets that low-wage earners don't.

    The article also passes on the typical Concentrate myths about the neighborhoods around downtown, but that's to be expected since they are a rag-for-hire, sponsored by MSHDA, SPARK, and others that represent the pro-development lobby.

    If you ask me, the neighborhoods around downtown make fine housing for all types of people and all types of family groups. If the University would stop over-enrolling students and allow the high rises to pull students out of the student ghettos more of these neighborhoods would open up. Then, the University, City, and major private employers could create a program to help those with lower incomes to buy the old houses and fix them up--either as single family units or apartments/condos. THAT is where you will find affordable housing closer to downtown--not in new construction--especially high rises.

  4. I agree with all of you here guys! Thanks for the thought!